The bases were loaded, in the bottom of the 8th inning, Phils down 6-2. Angels reliever Raisel Iglesias was on the mound, who needed one more out to get through the inning; however his fate would be found in the next batter he faced, Bryce Harper. In his career, Harper has excellent numbers against Iglesias.
According to a tweet posted by Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki, Harper is “4-for-6 with three home runs and seven RBIs. He has homered in his last three plate appearances against him (last two were in 2018). His other hit was a walk-off single on June 23, 2017.”
Harper was ahead in the count 3-2, with two outs. Iglesias delivered the perfect pitch, right down the middle. Harper crushed it into the right field second deck, for a game tying grand-slam!
Phillies long-time radio host, Larry Anderson exclaimed, “Unbelievable, well actually it is believable, the way Harper’s swinging… The Harper highlights continue.”
The Kid’s First Walkoff
Thanks to Harper, the Phils were back in the game. However, in the top of the 9th, the Angels scored a run off of Phillies nail-bitter closer, Corey Knebel. They trailed 7-6, in the bottom of the 9th.
The fightin’s were down their final out, with runners on first and second. A young fan had his rally cap on, praying as rookie Bryson Stott stepped to the plate. With the count full, Stott took an off-speed pitch and hammered the ball 366 feet into the right field stands. Game over! Phillies announcer Tom McCarthy shouted, “The Vegas connection has tied it, and won it!” What a game to remember.
Stott spoke of his admiration of Harper and how he’s a huge role model to the team. “You see number three do it all the time… He’s an MVP for a reason and he’s a guy you want up in those spots… What we did in the bottom of the ninth, we tried to pick each other up, and keep going.”
The Vegas Connection
Off the field, Harper and Stott quickly connected, as the two both grew up in Las Vegas. Stott attended high school just 20 miles from the Harper family’s home, and the two are also Team USA alumni. Stott was drafted by the Phillies in the 2019 MLB draft, and was congratulated by Harper on social media, welcoming him to the Philadelphia Phamily.
During the 2021 offseason, Stott spent every weekend at Harper’s home in Vegas, watching football, and training with Harper’s young son Krew, who hits baseballs off a tee for Stott to chase around.
After Stott’s game-winning home run on Sunday, Harper spoke of their brother-like relationship saying, “It’s pretty cool being able to play with one of your best friends, seeing him in that opportunity, going up there and doing that… He’s part of the inner circle that I call friends. Hanging out with him on Saturdays and Sundays watching football….What a moment for him, the fans, the organization. Everybody. Bryson put us on his back.”
It is no surprise to Phillies fans, the power their reigning MVP Bryce Harper has. Sunday’s grand slam is reminiscent of his epic walk-off grand slam vs the Chicago Cubs in August 2019.
Although these bombs are nearly three years apart, both are similar in the build up of the at-bat, and the emotions that follow.
Throwback to August 2019
At this point, the Phillies were a mediocre team, as they flirted with a spot in the postseason, although fell short, ending the season with a .500 record, 81-81.
However, the team put up a fight and did everything in their power to win games, under manager Gabe Kapler.
On August 15th 2019, Harper stepped to the plate, as they were down 5-3 with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th inning. He battled during this at-bat, fouling off pitch after pitch, as fans cheered anxiously, on their feet.
The sixth pitch hit the sweet spot of the bat, as Harper absolutely crushed the ball to the upper deck of right-field. The slugger flipped his bat, passionately fist pumped towards the dugout, sprinted around the bases, and celebrated with his team upon arrival at home plate. This moment surely no Phillies fan will ever forget.
Harper’s Signature Swings
According to MLB writer, David Adler, Harper utilizes two signature approaches when hitting. One utilizes the highly popular leg-kick approach, “a gradual stride toward the pitcher that mirrors the pitcher’s own stride toward him, his front leg in the air and knee hooking in toward his body as the bat ticks over his head and his hack begins.”
On the other hand, Harper uses a “quicker, toe-tap swing — his front toe tapping the ground as the pitcher drives toward the plate, then a short, low-to-the-ground step as he completes the swing.”
In the August 2019 grand-slam, Bryce used a toe-tap swing to blast the ball out of the ballpark. On the contrary, in Sunday’s game, Harper used the leg-kick approach. Both have been extremely effective, and depend on whether he is ahead or behind in the count, as well as how well he sees the ball out of the pitcher’s hand.
A Look Ahead
The Phillies took game one of their three game series vs. Milwaukee, on the road last night. With Aaron Nola on the mound tonight, the Phillies will look to keep their five game win-streak alive, and climb up in the NL East standings.