It isn’t enough, apparently, that Bryce Harper is a former National League MVP, a six-time All-Star, and one of the faces of baseball.
Harper has added something else to his resume: prophet.
- Zack Wheeler dominates the Nationals as the Phillies win for the eighth time in nine games
- New Phillies reliever David Phelps is pleased to be reunited with Joe Girardi and J.T. Realmuto
- With Phillies set to retire Dick Allen’s No. 15, former teammates want the Hall of Fame to honor him this year, too
Twelve days after the star right fielder earnestly said that all the struggling Phillies needed to turn around the season was “to go on a streak and win nine out of 10,” they won – you guessed it – for the ninth time in 10 games, 6-5, on rookie Alec Bohm’s 10th-inning sacrifice fly in the rain Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.
“It’s truly indescribable,” starting pitcher Zach Eflin said. “I mean, it’s something that’s fairly easy to say, but to actually happen is pretty incredible.”
The Phillies completed their first four-game sweep of the Nationals in 11 years – since May 15-17, 2009, to be exact. At 18-15, they have the fifth-best record in the National League; they were 14th in the league and had dropped five games in a row when Harper made his comment after a walkoff loss in Atlanta on Aug. 22.
Was it just wishful thinking, or did Harper really believe the Phillies were capable of this – entirely against the Braves and Nationals, no less? And if so, would he mind sharing tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers?
“I think you guys know I’m pretty truthful with everything that I say,” Harper said. “I’m not going to come on here and say, ’Oh yeah, we’re going to win nine out of 10,’ and then we go out there and don’t do crap. I think as a team we know what we can do. We know how we can play.”
But here’s the ironic part: Harper, who carried the Phillies’ offense for most of the season’s first month, is stuck in a 5-for-35 tailspin, with one extra-base hit, during the 10-game stretch.
The Phillies have been propelled instead by solid starting pitching, a reinforced bullpen, and big hits from Rhys Hoskins, Didi Gregorius, and Bohm, the 2018 first-round pick whose mature approach at the plate has been impressive.
Most of those elements combined in this victory. Hoskins stroked a homer and Gregorius an RBI double to build a 4-2 lead. Erstwhile closer Hector Neris continued his revival by striking out the side in the ninth inning; Blake Parker got out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th to run his scoreless streak to 9⅔ innings since being called up from Lehigh Valley.
And then there was Bohm, who notched three hits – all to the opposite field – including a single in an eighth-inning rally that tied the game. He takes what pitchers give him rather than trying to muscle homers out of the ballpark. Since his major-league debut last month, Bohm is batting .317 (20-for-63).
“He’s a hitter,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I said all along, I think this kid’s really going to hit. I think his approach is great. He’s not a guy who just looks to leave the ballpark. He looks to drive the ball gap to gap.”
Trailing, 5-4, in the eighth and having struck out in six consecutive at-bats against the Nationals’ bullpen, the Phillies looked cooked. But Gregorius led off with an infield single, Jay Bruce worked a one-out walk, and Bohm punched a single to right field before pinch-hitting Andrew McCutchen drove in the tying run on a fielder’s choice.
The winning rally featured good execution at the plate, but no hits. Realmuto began the 10th inning at second base, thanks to the new extra-inning rules. Gregorius bunted him to third, and, after Jean Segura and Phil Gosselin were walked intentionally, Bohm lifted the ball to medium-depth center field.
Standing on first base as Realmuto slid across the plate with the winning run, Bohm shrugged his shoulders as though he was wondering whether it could really be this easy.
Harper said about Bohm: “You’re probably going to think I’m crazy, and the only reason I’m saying it is because of the long hair and [uniform number] 28, but he’s got a great swing, and it reminds me a lot of J-Dub,” referring to former Phillies (and Nationals) outfielder Jayson Werth. “He’s got that little swing in a big man’s body. He’s been very good for us since he came up.
“The way he goes about it, his two-strike approach, hitting the ball to right field, he’s going to be a possible MVP player for us. I know that’s high praise, but I believe in him as a player, as a person.”
And who are we to doubt Harper?