And that, folks, is the moment the Phillies have waited for from their $330 million man.
Bryce Harper jumped on a first-pitch cutter from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen and smashed it into right-center field. Cesar Hernandez scored from second base, and as the ball skidded past center fielder A.J. Pollock, Scott Kingery zoomed home from first. After allowing five — count 'em, five — home runs and blowing a two-run lead in a rain-interrupted top of the ninth, the Phillies emerged with a 9-8 victory at rollicking Citizens Bank Park.
Biggest win of the season?
Did you see Harper’s delirious fist-pumping as he rounded second base?
“It was a huge moment for Bryce,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “And you could see when he came off the field after everybody was celebrating on the field how important that was to him. It meant a lot to him. He’s clearly emotional. I understand it. There’s been a lot of build-up that led up to that moment, and I’m sure it was quite a release for him.”
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Before Harper’s heroics, Neris’ struggles continued
Hector Neris had just thrown his final warm-up pitch before the ninth inning last night when it began to pour. The grounds crew covered the field, and a 22-minute delay ensued. Once play resumed, Neris gave up a leadoff walk, a single, and a go-ahead three-run homer, then hit a batter and got ejected.
Blame it on the rain?
Well, maybe. Except here’s the thing: Neris has blown four of his last seven save chances. So, although the Milli Vanilli hit might have been an appropriate soundtrack for this particular implosion, it doesn’t explain why the Phillies closer has gone from being unhittable for three months to unreliable for the last three weeks.
“I think he’s just missed with location,” Kapler said. “That’s probably the best way to look at it.”
When Neris faltered during the first half of last season, struggling so much that he got sent to triple A, he often strayed from his signature splitter. This year, he has stuck with his best pitch and simply gotten knocked around. He gave up a go-ahead homer to Washington’s Juan Soto on a hanging splitter Saturday night. Matt Beaty hit a splitter out to right-center field last night.
Neris has allowed 12 runs on 14 hits, including four homers, and six walks in 11 innings over his last 12 appearances. Through his first 28 appearances, he gave up six earned runs on 17 hits, including three homers, and nine walks in 28 2/3 innings.
But Neris maintains that his confidence isn't shaken.
“Sometimes in your career, in the middle of the season, you get a little moment of struggle," Neris said. “But at the same time, it’s how hard you can work every day and come back every day. You prepare your body. You know what you have to do. If you have a good day, [be] happy. If you have a bad day, take the bad thing that happened and prepare for tomorrow and try to do better the next day.”
Neris said he tried to stay loose and focused during the rain delay. He also claimed that he didn’t intend to hit David Freese in the back with a fastball two pitches after giving up the homer to Beaty.
“No, nothing crazy,” Neris said. “I just wanted to throw inside, and I hit him. I didn’t hit him on purpose. I just want to throw my ball in.”
This time, though, all’s well that ended well. Harper took Neris off the hook, and the Phillies rebounded from the humiliation of Monday night’s 16-2 loss with their most improbable win of the season.
“I was so excited,” Neris said. “I almost jumped over my chair.”
Even when the Phillies win, they lose something. Tuesday night, it was Jay Bruce, who left in the middle of a third-inning at-bat with a rib-cage injury. He will get an MRI exam today to get more information on the issue.
Maikel Franco was benched last night. But was it because of a sore groin or for not running hard on a groundout Monday night? Gabe Kapler explains it all here.
Kapler discussed his method of dealing with players by saying, “I’m not [bleeping] Dallas Green. I never will be.” That’s fine, Bob Brookover writes, as long as Kapler’s message gets through.
How did the Phillies go from Matt Klentak’s “objectively excellent” offseason to Andy MacPhail’s “if we don’t, we don’t” attitude about making the playoffs? Matt Breen dives in.
Tonight: Nick Pivetta vs. Dodgers’ Ross Stripling, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola starts in exclusive YouTube broadcast, 12:35 p.m.
Friday: Jake Arrieta and his bone spur take the mound in Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
In defeating the Dodgers last night, the Phillies achieved something exceedingly rare: They won a game despite allowing five home runs.
Vince Velasquez gave up four of them in only 4 2/3 innings. Neris allowed the fifth, a three-run shot by pinch-hitter Beaty in the ninth inning. According to the invaluable Play Index at Baseball-Reference.com, it marked only the seventh time since at least 1908 that the Phillies gave up at least five homers and won.
The other instances: April 27, 2009 vs. Nationals (13-11); June 9, 2004 vs. White Sox (13-10); Aug. 18, 1995 vs. Giants (16-8); May 17, 1979 vs. Cubs (23-22); July 9, 1978 vs. Expos (8-7); and April 17, 1964 vs. Cubs (10-8).
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: You talked about Sean Rodriguez possibly playing due to injuries. Isn’t he already on the IL?
— John C., via email
Answer: Hi, John. I believe you’re referring to a line from yesterday’s newsletter in which my esteemed colleague Matt Breen listed Rodriguez as a potential option if both Jean Segura and Maikel Franco miss extended time with injuries. Well, #blamebreen! Rodriguez was, in fact, placed on the injured list Friday because of an abdominal strain.
With Segura (heel) and Franco (groin) out of the lineup last night, Scott Kingery moved to shortstop and Brad Miller was the choice to play third base. At this point, the Phillies don’t think Segura or Franco will need to go on the injured list. If that changes, though, Malvern Prep grad Phil Gosselin could return from triple A, although he would need to be added back to the 40-man roster. The best remaining 40-man option: Mitch Walding, who hasn’t hit much this season at Lehigh Valley.