Phillies deliver on Bryce Harper's quote for the ages originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
As famous Philadelphia sports quotes go, it might not be up there with Fred Shero's classic "Win today, walk together forever," comment, or Moses Malone's "Fo, fo, fo," prediction, or Jimmy Rollins' "Team to beat," prophecy. But what came out of Bryce Harper's mouth 12 days ago in Atlanta will be remembered for a long time around here if the Phillies get into the playoffs later this month and do some damage.
The rampaging Phillies won for the ninth time in 10 games on Thursday when they edged the Washington Nationals, 6-5, in 10 innings at Citizens Bank Park. Alec Bohm, who had three hits, won it with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly and after the game, Harper said the rookie third baseman had the look of a "future MVP."
Maybe we should book that. Seriously, who's to doubt Harper after what he said August 22 in Atlanta? The Phils had just lost their fifth straight game to fall to 9-14. The season was slipping away. After the game, Harper said the only way to save the season was to win nine of 10 games.
And just like that ...
The Phillies are 18-15 and just 2 games out of first place in the NL East with 27 games to play.
"I heard someone say Bryce is a prophet," manager Joe Girardi said after the game. "I'm going to go to him and see what I should do next."
Starting pitcher Zach Eflin twice could not protect two-run leads, but the bullpen and the bats did enough for the Phillies to complete a four-game sweep of the Nationals and fulfill Harper's commandment.
"Truly indescribable," Eflin said. "I mean, it's something that's fairly easy to say but to actually happen is pretty incredible.
"I've said all along we could play like this if we could get a rhythm, but it was tough to do that with eight days off early in the season and some of the weather we've had. Everybody's optimistic. Everybody is all-in for this year which is just huge. We've all honestly busted our asses the whole quarantine to be able to be in this position and play winning baseball."
Ironically, the Phillies' surge has come with Harper swinging a cold bat. He helped carry the team early but is 7 for 45 (.155) with 16 strikeouts in his last 14 games. His batting average has plunged from .367 to .276 over that span.
"I feel like I haven't done anything right now in these 10 games," Harper said. "But as a team, we've gone out there and played to the best of our ability. A lot of guys have stepped up like Rhys (Hoskins) and Bohm.
"Me and J.T. have talked about it. You know, me and him aren't doing what we need to do right now. And once we get going, hopefully, it's going to be even better for us."
The Phillies now embark on a rugged stretch of schedule with 11 of their next 13 games on the road. There are three doubleheaders in that span. There's also a seven-game series in Miami, a place where a number of Phillies seasons have died.
It all begins Friday night in New York against the Mets with Jake Arrieta on the mound.
"We're going to be really tested," Girardi said. "I think it's really important that we were able to get our bullpen settled down with some of the additions the front office made because we've got to keep winning. The goal is to win the division and Atlanta is winning every day and we're chasing them and we don't see them anymore.
"We just need to win series. That's it."
Harper didn't have any bold predictions for the Phillies going forward, but he stood by his previous comment about the team needing to win nine of 10 and he said it wasn't just jock talk. He meant it.
"I think you guys know me as a person," Harper said. "I'm pretty truthful with everything that I say. I'm not going to come on here and go, 'We've got to win nine out of 10,' and then we don't do crap. I think as a team we know what we can do and how we can play.
"I'm very happy and proud of this team right now. We've got a long ways to go. We have to keep fighting, keep grinding and keep this going."