WASHINGTON -- If you had a bad feeling in your stomach when Bryce Harper made the slow walk to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday night, well, it was completely understandable.
Just 24 years old, Harper is already a noted Phillie killer.
He knocked them out with a walk-off homer on April 16 and did it again Saturday night.
Harper's 11th home run of the season, a two-run shot with two outs, propelled the Washington Nationals to a 6-4 walk-off win against the increasingly hapless Phillies (see Instant Replay).
Harper's decisive blast came on an 0-1 fastball from reliever Edubray Ramos. The pitch came out of Ramos' hand at 95 mph and left the ballpark at 110 mph.
Ramos said he wanted to throw Harper a pitch down and away, but the pitch found a lot of plate - and a lot of Harper's barrel.
"He's out there to win the game and he's got that kind of bat," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That's what it takes to win a lot of these games. He was looking for a good heater out over the plate that he could hit. Ramos tried to go down and away and missed his spot. It was pretty much down the middle, above the knee. Those kinds of hitters don't miss fastballs and they don't miss fastball mistakes. That's what he was looking for and he got it."
Harper has 19 homers and 51 RBIs in 304 career at-bats against the Phillies. His latest homer capped a remarkable day for him. Earlier on Saturday, he signed a one-year contract extension for the 2018 season worth $21.625 million. (He is making $13.63 million this season.) Harper will be a free agent after the 2018 season and there has long been talk that he could get a $400 million deal on the open market. The Phillies have big money and surely would love to sign a player like Harper. But for the next season-plus, they simply have to worry about getting him out and that's no easy task - for any team. He is hitting .368 with an on-base percentage of .493 and a slugging percentage of .796.
Four of Harper's 11 homers this season have come against the Phillies.
The loss was the Phillies' 11th in the last 13 games. They have held a lead at one point in nine of those losses.
Over the last three games, the Phillies have blown three four-run leads. They blew two in a loss to Seattle on Tuesday and another one in this game.
Rookie right-hander Nick Pivetta, in his third big-league start, took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth but failed to get out of the inning. He gave up four two-out runs as the Nats tied the game on a two-run homer by Trea Turner and a two-run double by Ryan Zimmerman. Both of those hits came on fastballs with Pivetta ahead in the count.
Pivetta maintained that he made just one bad pitch - the 1-2 fastball to Zimmerman. But he issued a pair of two-out walks to Jayson Werth and Harper before Zimmerman's game-tying double so he probably made more than one bad pitch.
"The two-out walks didn't help at all," Pivetta acknowledged.
While blowing another four-run lead irked Mackanin, he was quick to point out that the Phils did not add on to the 4-0 lead that they had built in the fifth inning. They got the leadoff man on base in the seventh and ninth innings and did nothing with it. Odubel Herrera was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts and six men left on base.
With Pivetta gone after 4 2/3 innings, Mackanin had to go to his bullpen early. Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez, Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit pitched scoreless ball before Ramos gave it up in the ninth. Harper's homer was the 23rd given up by the bullpen this season, the most in the majors.
The Nationals have won 18 of their last 23 games against the Phillies since May 30, 2016.
Maybe it was only fitting that Harper was the hero in this one. It was his day. Twenty-one million bucks and a game-winning homer.
"I'm excited," Harper said. "Just to be able to go out there and win another one for our club. It's fun to get the W. Nobody wanted to play extras with a doubleheader ahead of us tomorrow. Huge win."
And for the Phillies, another painful loss.