Tonight, Major League Baseball will announce the Most Valuable Player award winner from each league. While the Angels’ do-it-all superstar, Shohei Ohtani, is considered almost a lock to take home the American League’s award, who should take home the National League’s MVP is much more of a debate.

Basically, it comes down to Phillies slugger Bryce Harper and Washington Nationals phenom Juan Soto. Here’s why Harper should win.

  • Harper was clutch: His 1.071 OPS in the seventh inning or later and 1.107 OPS in tied games both led the majors. Harper hit 35 home runs, and 17 of them either tied the game or put the Phillies ahead.

  • How many games would the Phillies have won without him?: The Phillies finished the season 82-80, but can you imagine where they would have been without Harper? The outfielder slashed .367/.479/.753 in games the Phillies won. All three of those marks led the National League.

  • What have you done for me lately? From June on, Harper hit .359 with a major-league-best .788 slugging percentage against fastballs. Overall, Harper hit .323 and led the majors in slugging (.663), OPS (1.104), and extra-base hits (63) after June 1.

We rest our case ...

— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport

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Early Birds

The Eagles showed off a pretty creative running attack Sunday against the Broncos, with Nick Sirianni utilizing a strong offensive line, multiple backs, and Jalen Hurts to keep Denver off balance. And with Miles Sanders soon to return to action, the Eagles will have even more options when it comes to a running game that was once abandoned. It has turned into a real strength.

The Eagles also have gotten a big contribution from linebacker Davion Taylor, who went from football neophyte to making a potentially season-changing play. Taylor’s forced fumble led to Darius Slay’s 83-yard return for a touchdown, the key play in the win over the Broncos. And the film shows how far Taylor has come and how much he still has to improve.

Extra Innings

The Phillies signed Zack Wheeler two years ago to a $118 million contract based more on the promise they saw in him than his performance in the first five years of his career. Two seasons into that five-year contract, Wheeler has made that decision look brilliant and quite cost-effective, emerging as the Phillies’ ace and a finalist for the National League Cy Young Award. Wheeler narrowly lost out on the award to Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes on Wednesday night, but he gives the Phillies a dependable talent on a roster full of question marks going into a crucial offseason.

Next: The Cy Young Award didn’t break the Phillies’ way, but will the MVP? Harper finds out if he will win his second Most Valuable Player award during a special on the MLB Network tonight at 6.

Off the Dribble

The 76ers’ season is off to a dark start with the Ben Simmons saga, COVID-19 outbreaks, and their recent five-game losing streak. One bright spot, though, has been Georges Niang, who is looking like one of the best offseason signings of the summer. Previously a minor role player for the Utah Jazz, Niang has stepped into a larger role with the Sixers and helped them stay afloat during a tough time.

The Inquirer’s Gina Mizell spoke with Niang as he returned to Utah for the first time since leaving the Jazz. He still maintains strong ties to the franchise that helped jump-start his career, but his game has taken on a new life in Philly, where he has galvanized the second unit and offered cover while Simmons and Joel Embiid sit.

Next: The Sixers play the Denver Nuggets tonight at 9 at Ball Arena. They will enter the game with hopes of breaking their five-game losing streak.

On the Fly

“One that I’ll remember forever.”

That is how Kevin Hayes described his goal Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames. The goal, in his first home appearance of the season, was the first he had scored since his brother, former NHL forward Jimmy Hayes, tragically died in August.

Hayes celebrated the goal by pointing to the heavens in tribute to Jimmy and also got the puck, which he plans to give to Jimmy’s oldest son, Beau. The younger Hayes credits his Flyers teammates, including close friend and roommate Keith Yandle, for helping him through the “bad days.”

Speaking of bad days, the Flyers have had plenty of ‘em on the power play of late, as the team is just 3 for its last 36 with the man advantage. Alain Vigneault continued to search for answers at Wednesday’s practice, experimenting with new combinations on both units.

Next: The Flyers are back at the Wells Fargo Center tonight to take on the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Puck drop is scheduled for 7, and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Worth a look

  • Like father, like son: The last name Strickland holds weight in basketball circles, given that Rod Strickland played 17 seasons in the NBA and ranks 13th all-time in assists. His son Tai is trying to keep that tradition alive at Temple, and after shoulder surgery, he’s doing just that with his sweet shooting stroke.

  • Grandma’s boy: Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields will have a special guest on hand Saturday at Beaver Stadium: his grandmother. Castro-Fields, who is ranked No. 9 among cornerback prospects by ESPN’s Todd McShay, calls his grandmother his “rock.”

  • Deadly Dragons: Drexel outlasted St. Joseph’s on Wednesday to earn City 6 bragging rights over the Hawks. Grad student James Butler and senior Camren Wynter combined for 45 points as the Dragons held on for a 78-75 victory.