Bryce Harper’s heroics are the best heroics.
I still get chills from his walk-off grand slam against the Cubs or his 8th-inning game-tying grand slam against the Angels last season.
And, of course, there’s debatably the most clutch home run in Phillies history where (on the 7th pitch) Harper sent one in the air to left-center field against the Padres in the NLCS to send the Phils to the World Series.
It’s almost like in any big moment, Harper comes through. That hasn’t changed this year.
Unfortunately, it seems like every time Harper puts the team on his back this season, they somehow blow it.
It started in late August when the Phillies took on the Giants in a three-game homestand at Citizens Bank Park. They were down 5-2 in the third game of the series. With a potential sweep of San Francisco on the line, Harper stepped up to the plate with two on and no outs in the bottom of the 9th.
Harper took a 3-1 offering and sent a laser down the right field line, dinging the pole and tying the game up. The Phillies bullpen would give up 3 runs in the top of the 10th to squash any excitement CBP had from Harper’s homer.
It happened again a week later against the Angels on August 30th. The Phillies were somehow in a back-and-forth batting brawl with the then 63-70 Angels. By the bottom of the 8th inning, it was 7-6 Los Angeles. In the bottom half, Schwarber managed to hit one of his rare singles. But in between that hit were two strikeouts, so Harper stepped up to the plate with two outs and one man on this time.
Once again, Harper connected with a high drive to right-center field to put the Phils ahead. It was a historic homer for Harper, the 300th of his career, and CBP was rocking. Cue 10-15 minutes later when the Angels scored 3 runs off of Craig Kimbrel to put them up 10-8 and earn the victory. That loss was deflating, especially when the Phillies wasted history for Harper.
Wait, we aren’t done yet. Somehow, two days later, it happened again. This time with another player: the hot-as-fire Trea Turner. Turner hit a three-run bomb down the left field line to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead in the 8th inning against the National League pennant-competing Brewers. It was Turner’s 4th homer in three games, and, boy, was it a big one.
Cue Jose Alvarado, who lost all command as he gave up a whopping 4 runs to the Brewers in the bottom of the 8th to give Milwaukee the win.
Did you think we were done with the Phillies squandering another game of Harper heroics? We aren’t.
Just last Monday, when the Phillies were playing the best team in the league in the Braves, Harper skied a two-run, two-out home run in the bottom of the 9th to keep the game alive. Any game-saving home run with two outs in the last inning is exciting, and Harper delivered. As if like clockwork, the Braves managed to take back the lead with a 2-run top of the 10th. The Phillies put up a goose egg in the bottom of the 10th and were unable to take a game they could have won from their NL East rivals. It also could have prevented the Braves’ celebration of another division win on the Phillies home turf.
If everything had gone right for the Phillies and they won all four games or, heck, even two or three of these games, they would be those many games ahead in the Wild Card race and the elusive home field advantage in the three-game playoff series awarded to the 4th seed of each league.
Now, as the final stretch of the season comes to a near close, the Phillies will be forced to grit their teeth and ride it out and hope they can outlast their Wild Card competitors for the first spot in the WC race.
In order to bring playoff baseball back to Philadelphia for the second straight season after an 11-year playoff drought, the Phillies must take advantage of big game-tying and lead-changing moments to secure their playoff spot.
Photo: John Fisher/Getty Images