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MLB Playoff Roundup: Bryce Harper sends the Phillies to the World Series

Philadelphia capped a short-but-thrilling NLCS with another comeback win.

Championship Series - San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Five Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

With the Yankees fighting for their lives, a couple hours south, the Padres fought for theirs against the Phillies. San Diego’s predicament wasn’t as dire as the Yankees’ 3-0 deficit, as the Padres could send the NLCS back to California if they could just take one game in Philly. The Phillies had other ideas, and what was a short but exciting series came to a thrilling finish.

NLCS Game 5

Philadelphia Phillies 4, San Diego Padres 3

(Phillies wins series 4-1)

This was a rematch of Game 1, which brought us a terrific pitchers’ duel between Zack Wheeler and Yu Darvish. Wheeler prevailed in that one, one-hitting San Diego across seven innings in a 2-0 Philadelphia win.

We got something of a redux yesterday. Wheeler looked as sharp as ever, retiring the first 11 batters he faced and pitching into the seventh. Darvish again was a worthy opponent, though, holding the Phillies to two runs through six innings of his own.

Those two runs came from a familiar source for Philly, with Rhys Hoskins turning into That Guy in October. The first baseman helped power Philadelphia to their Game 4 comeback win, and got the scoring started in Game 5 with another towering home run:

Hoskins gave the Phillies a 2-0 advantage, but this time, Wheeler wasn’t quite able to bring it all the way home. First, Juan Soto got the Padres on the board with a tank job of his own:

Wheeler gave up a leadoff single to Jake Cronenworth in the seventh, and Phillies manager Rob Thomson decided to pull his ace having thrown 87 pitches and facing the Padre lineup a third time. Thomson tabbed Seranthony Domínguez, who yielded a game-tying double to Josh Bell.

That’s when the conditions came into play. The seventh was played in a light rain, and Dominguez, never renowned for his control, came unglued. He uncorked three wild pitches in total, letting pinch-runner José Azocar advance to third and then score the go-ahead run:

The Padres were suddenly in control, and three innings from bringing the NLCS back to San Diego. Bob Melvin tabbed Robert Suarez to try and build the bridge to Josh Hader, and Suarez handled the seventh capably.

But then came the eighth. J.T. Realmuto led off with a single, bringing Bryce Harper to the plate. Suarez fed Harper a steady diet of fastballs, missing over the plate with a pair of sinkers, only for Harper to foul them off. On a 2-2 count, Suarez left a third heater over the plate, and Harper finally connected for the biggest home run of his life:

An epic moment, one that instantly goes down in the annals of Philadelphia sports history.

Dearly beloved David Robertson came on for the ninth, and unfortunately could only record one out while putting two on. Ranger Suárez relieved D-Rob, and after an odd bunt from Trent Grisham made for the second out, induced a lazy fly ball to right that Nick Castellanos corralled to end the series.

The World Series will be Astros/Phillies, beginning on Friday night in Houston.

If you’ll allow for a brief bit of editorializing, this Phillies’ triumph drives home a couple of opposing points about the Yankees’ failures this October. On one hand, Philadelphia possesses a highly uneven roster consisting of two great pitchers, J.T. Realmuto, and approximately 12 DH’s. If ever there was a team that showed that quality roster construction, analytically-inclined planning, and just overall reasonable decision-making are all dwarfed by variance once you get to October, I’m not sure there ever was.

On the other, the Phillies spent to push their team over the top, notably securing a signature from Bryce Harper four years ago when the Yankees showed little interest in doing so. Harper just sent them to the World Series. Please Hal, when young, generational hitting talents are available for just money, consider spending it.