March 23, 2023

‘We never doubted being here:’ Harper’s heroics lead Phillies to dramatic World Series-clinching win


With J.T. Realmuto on first base in the bottom of the eighth inning, Bryce Harper stepped to the plate as the go-ahead run. You didn’t need to listen to Joe Davis, the play-by-play announcer for the series to know what happened—you only had to listen to the pure reaction from the electric crowd, wishing to witness history in South Philadelphia.

The drama began in the seventh inning, as the game was all knotted up at two. Rhys Hoskins launched his third two-run home run in the past two games. Less than an inning later, Juan Soto crushed a solo home run to centerfield, bringing San Diego within one. Josh Bell doubled the tying run home in the seventh.

From here, the rain began. And as the rain began, things started to slip away from the Phillies. Seranthony Dominguez threw his second and third wild pitches of the inning, bringing pinch-runner Jose Azocar in to score.

“I pitched today?” Dominguez replied when asked if the rain was affecting his grip. “Man, I don’t even remember.”

While Dominguez’s performance will try to be forgotten, one thing will not—the result of Padres’ reliever Robert Suarez’s 2-2 pitch to Phils’ slugger Bryce Harper. It wasn’t crushed, but 382 feet paired with a 108.9 mile-per-hour exit velocity off the bat was enough for the ball to sneak over the Xfinity sign in left field.

Quite frankly, this is everything we expected from Bryce Harper when he signed with the Phillies ahead of the 2019 season. It’s not just the five home runs and the 1.351 OPS since the start of the Wild Card Series that makes him special—part of it is the appreciation he has for his fans, the bond he’s formed with his teammates, and the sense of leadership he brings to the team.

“They just want you to work hard, they want you to play hard… No excuses,” Harper said about the sports fans in Philadelphia. “It made me want to come here and play because I knew how much they cared.”

Harper has the highest OPS in the postseason since Manny Ramirez had a 1.747 OPS during the 2008 playoffs. His five postseason home runs in 2022 tie him with Phillies’ current first baseman, Rhys Hoskins, for fourth-most in a single postseason.

And remember, he is far from finished his October tear.

“This city, this team, organization. This is for them… The job’s not done, right? We’ve got four more wins to be world champs,” Harper told MLB Network’s Lauren Gardner.

If they want to get the four more wins Harper mentioned, everyone on the squad will need to step up. This includes David Robertson, Jose Alvarado, and Seranthony Dominguez, who all showed some signs of fatigue in their outings today. The poor conditions could have been a factor, but Dominguez and Robertson had trouble gripping their breaking balls, and Alvarado ran into some traffic in his scoreless frame.

You also cannot discount Zack Wheeler, who continued his postseason dominance with six quality innings that featured eight punch outs.

Robertson—coming off a calf injury—was expected to be in a lower-leverage role, but Rob Thomson has trusted him in high-pressure scenarios since his return. He started the ninth inning with the Phils ahead by one but was pulled for Ranger Suarez after allowing two consecutive walks. Suarez made his first relief appearance since the 2021 regular season and showed no rust in that role.

Trent Grisham’s sacrifice bunt left it all up to Austin Nola with two on and two out in the ninth. Suarez’s first pitch to Nola was popped up into right field, and Nick Castellanos secured the ball as Ranger Suarez celebrated with an immaculate fist pump by the mound.

The crowd erupted, and the evening in South Philadelphia had just gotten underway as a long, celebratory night was ahead. The champagne was flying everywhere, and the city was ecstatic as the Phillies punched their ticket to the World Series.

With the Astros’ comeback win late Sunday night, the Phillies will take on Houston in the World Series, which is set to begin on Friday. The ‘Stros have won all seven of their postseason games thus far, and their winning streak goes all the way back to nine games if you count the final series of the regular season.

Needless to say, the Phils’ biggest challenge is still ahead, and bringing home a title for the first time since 2008 will be no easy feat.

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