There were 17 outs left to get Friday night when Spencer Howard walked off the mound, an athletic trainer at his side, and a clear fluid blister underneath the nail of his right middle finger.
What were the odds that the Phillies' bullpen — with its worst-in-baseball 10.21 ERA — could get all 17 without allowing a run?
So, when the Phillies came off the field after closer Hector Neris blew a save with two outs in the top of the ninth, Bryce Harper delivered a message, a variation on the same one that Ryan Howard made famous in Game 4 of the 2009 National League Division Series in Colorado.
"First thing I said was, 'Get me up. Give me a chance,'" Harper said. "I love those opportunities. I love being able to come through for my team."
Harper got his chance with one out and the winning run on second base. He didn’t waste it, lining a single into right field that scored Roman Quinn, who used every bit of his track-star speed to slide into home plate ahead of the tag in a had-to-have-it 6-5 victory over the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.
It was redemption for Quinn, who overran a routine fly ball in center field earlier in the game. It was Harper's 11th career walkoff hit. More importantly, though, it stopped the Phillies' losing streak at three games after a sweep at home by the Baltimore Orioles that Harper labeled an "embarrassment."
The Phillies won for only the second time in seven games. And although it's probably still too early to classify any series under the "must-win" heading, it's almost imperative that they win one or two more against the Mets, especially with more than a quarter of this 60-game sprint season already complete and 10 games in a row on the road after Sunday.
"That's a big win for us right there," Harper said. "It started the series off right after the embarrassment that we put up against the Baltimore Orioles. That was pretty terrible. To start this series off on the right foot, that's huge for us."
As manager Joe Girardi put it, "I think this was a really important win for us."
It was fortuitous, then, that the Mets scratched ace Jacob deGrom a few hours before the game because of a stiff neck. But mindbogglingly sloppy defense and back-to-back solo homers by Dom Smith and Robinson Cano on offspeed pitches from Howard put the Phillies in an early hole.
It wasn’t until J.T. Realmuto bashed a three-run homer in the fifth inning — his eighth homer, second-most by a Phillies player through 15 games of a season after Mike Schmidt (12 in 1976) — that the Phillies grabbed a lead, 5-4, that Jose Alvarez, Blake Parker, Adam Morgan, and Tommy Hunter held.
After Neris gave it away, the winning rally began with Quinn’s leadoff single. Andrew McCutchen followed with a sharply hit single. After Rhys Hoskins struck out, Harper took a strike, fouled off two pitches, and lined a slider from Mets reliever Seth Lugo into right field.
Quinn appeared to take a wide turn around third base. Harper feared he might have hit the ball too hard to score Quinn.
It was a close play, but as the Phillies muted their on-field celebration, a replay review confirmed home-plate umpire Mark Wegner's safe call.
“[Quinn] is faster than most, so his wide turn doesn’t matter as much as if it was you or I running,” Girardi said. “I wasn’t sure he was going to make it. I really wasn’t. The thing about Roman is, when he slid, he didn’t decelerate. He accelerated through the bag, which was probably the difference.”
Said Harper: “With ‘Q’ on second base, I knew all I had to do was put something in the outfield and he was going to score. [Third-base coach] Dusty [Wathan] waved him, he scored, we won the game. Very happy about that.”
Girardi was eager to see Howard again after his major-league debut five nights earlier. Despite the early exit, the Phillies don't believe Howard will miss a start, especially because Monday's day off will give him additional rest before he pitches again, likely Thursday in a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo.
“Trainers don’t think it’s a big deal. I don’t think it’s a big deal, either,” Howard said. “Probably just more preventative than anything.”
Besides, all’s well that ends well for a Phillies team that was desperate for a positive ending.
“Everybody knows how we played in that series [against the Orioles],” Harper said. “It’s done. It is what it is. We’ve just got to get going and get past it.”