You know it’s a special afternoon when an eighth-inning, game-tying Bryce Harper grand slam isn’t even the Phillies’ biggest home run of the day.
Down four runs and down to their final four outs, the Phils got a dramatic salami from Harper into the second deck in the right field off of Angels closer to Raisel Iglesias, and then after Corey Knebel allowed a run in the ninth, rookie Bryson Stott walked it off with a two-out, three-run homer.
Crazy finish. Crazy game. Crazy weekend.
“What a great series we just had,” Harper said after the 9-7 win. “I’m so happy for the kid, man. What an at-bat, what a situation for him. Being able to really put our trust in our young guys the last couple of days and really let them just play, it’s been great. “
Stott is one of Harper’s closest and oldest friends. There’s a five-year age difference but they grew up together in Las Vegas and the families have had a longstanding relationship. Stott still lives with Harper during spring training.
“It’s pretty cool seeing one of your best friends get an opportunity to come up and do that,” Harper said. “And legit being one of your best friends. He’s part of that inner circle that I call friends, hang out on Saturdays and Sundays watching football.
“It’s just a really cool moment for our families too. We’ve known his family for so long. What a moment for him, the fans, the organization, everybody. That was huge. Bryson put us on his back in that last inning .
“I walked up the steps and (Zack Wheeler) was standing there and I said, ‘I think he’s gonna go deep right here, I can just feel it.’ The moment, the opportunity, just seeing him thrive when he was younger and now. “
Rob Thomson is 3-0 as the Phillies’ interim manager after a sweep of the Angels. The Phils’ offense came alive this weekend with 26 runs, seven homers, 15 extra-base hits and 45 baserunners. Two of the homers belonged to Stott, both three-run shots.
The rookie is settling in at the plate after a slow start. Over the last five games, he’s 6 for 18 with two homers, a double, six RBI and seven runs scored. Both homers came on breaking balls that seemed to break right into his bat path.
“I knew I hit it good,” Stott said. “I hit two off the end of the bat to the right and I hit that one off the barrel. I knew I got it good enough to hopefully let Didi (Gregorius) score and I just saw them keep going back and back.
“Any walk-off, especially to do it at the highest level – (Kyle) Schwarber told me he’s never seen me speechless. I didn’t really know what was going on once it happened and I don’t think I said many words. “
Harper thinks it’s a matter of playing time for Stott, who was in the Phillies’ lineup on opening day but quickly ceded time to Johan Camargo and Gregorius because he didn’t hit much in April. Now, Stott needs to play, not only because he’s an important piece of the Phillies’ future but because they have a banged-up infield. Jean Segura is out three months with a broken finger. Nick Maton went on the IL Sunday morning with a right shoulder sprain as Gregorius was activated after missing a month with a knee injury. Camargo left Sunday’s game with what Thomson called a “knee sprain or strain” and will be reevaluated Monday.
“He just needs to play,” Harper said of Stott. “From high school to college to minor-league baseball to now, he’s used to playing every day and that’s what we’ve got to do for our young guys. They’ve got to play. If you want your young guys to have success , they have to play every day. And when they have those opportunities, I think they’re going to take full advantage of that, whether that’s Bryson or Maton or anybody else. We need our young guys to come in every day and be ready to play and know we have the faith in them to go out there and do their job. “
The vibe of the afternoon changed drastically in the game’s final 30 minutes. Until Harper’s slam, the Phillies had gone 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, 2 for 15 with men on base and stranded 10 runners.
Down four in the eighth, the Phils took advantage of third baseman Matt Duffy’s throwing error, which put runners on the corners with nobody out rather than a man on first with one away. After Stott grounded into a fielder’s choice, Schwarber worked an important walk. It forced Angels manager Joe Maddon to remove his laboring lefty, Aaron Loup, for Iglesias, the right-handed closer.
Iglesias stuck out Rhys Hoskins and had two strikes on Harper when Harper took him deep for the third time. In six career at-bats against Iglesias, Harper has three homers and a walk-off single.
“I haven’t faced him in a couple of years so I wasn’t really sure,” he said. “Last time I faced him was in 2018 and a lot can change in those couple years. He’s really good out there, he’s got pretty funky stuff that he throws. I was just trying to get something over the plate and stay through something.”
This time, the Phillies actually won the game. Three times in May, they hit a game-tying or go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later only to lose anyway. This was nearly a fourth.
“It’s big to come back,” Thomson said. ‘We tie it, we give up a run in the ninth but the energy level was so high in the dugout, the guys were like,’ We can do this, we can do this, we can do this. ‘ And they did.
“It just creates confidence. I thought although we didn’t play as well defensively today, I thought the first two games we really played well defensively. Obviously we swung the bats very well this weekend.”
The Phillies (25-29) are off Monday before the opening of a three-game series in Milwaukee Tuesday night. They caught the Angels (11 straight losses) at the right time and might also be catching the Brewers at an opportune moment. Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta are on the IL and left-hander Eric Lauer won’t pitch in the series, meaning the Phillies will avoid three of Milwaukee’s top four starting pitchers.
“Just got to keep plugging,” Harper said. “It’s a long season for a reason. You play a season for a reason. We’ve had many opportunities in the past to win games and we haven’t done that. I hate looking back, so this was a great series we just played and we have to keep going. Milwaukee is a really good team. We’ve got to continuously win the series. We’ve got to start now. “
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