If the Phillies allow themselves to dream of it, signing Bryce Harper would mean a return to the World Series. The dream came true on Sunday when Harper hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the 8th inning of a rainy NLCS Game 5 to beat the San Diego Padres 4-3 and win a trip to the Fall Classic.
Harper signed a 13-year and $330 million contract through 2019, and his tenure in Philadelphia until June has been a frustrating mix of individual excellence and collective mediocrity. The team took off after firing manager Joe Girardi and replacing him with backup coach Rob Thomson. Despite being the third-best team in the NL East, they made the playoffs in the summer and retained the sixth and final spot in an expanded playoff berth in September.
Now, playing their own unique brand of, and sometimes chaotic, baseball, they’ve won the NL pennant and the team’s first World Series berth since 2009.
Game 5 suffered from wet conditions throughout. After the shutdown has compressed the playoff schedule, Major League Baseball chose to play in the rain in Philadelphia. The NLCS and ALCS schedules have only one off day — after Game 2 — instead of the usual two.
At the top of the seventh quarter, a downpour seemed to turn the team’s fortunes around, when the Padres went ahead on a series of wild pitches by Phillies reliever Seranthony Dominguez.
But Harper responded in the next inning, blasting his vital homer off San Diego setter Robert Suarez. In Game 4, Harper capped the raucous Phillies comeback with a go-ahead RBI double.
The Phillies turned the trade deadline to acquire David Robertson in the ninth inning, but ended up bringing in starter Ranger Suarez in Game 3, getting the last two outs after two Padres reached.
Two-time NL MVP Harper is writing October Legends. Despite the strength of the team, his time with the Nationals produced zero playoff series wins. Now he has three. Harper, who has batted over .400 in the playoffs so far, is heading into his first career World Series appearance hotly, since Sports Illustrated called him the “drafted man” at age 16. , his career has been under the microscope.
He looks to be one of those Philly fanbases who suffered disappointment at the end of an era featuring Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, and then a long and winding rebuild.
Zach Wheeler and Yu Darvish largely dominated the game early in the Game 1 rematch. They each pitched into the seventh inning, allowing two runs each, but neither factored into the decision.
A Padres victory would mean the series returns to San Diego for Game 6 and possibly Game 7. Instead, Philadelphia is celebrating Sunday night’s pennant and preparing for a clash with the Astros or Yankees. Houston is 3-0 in the ALCS and could seal the game in the Bronx as early as Sunday night.
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