Harper HR propels Phillies past Padres and into the World Series


PHILADELPHIA –

Bryce Harper broke up the Phillies’ postseason party on the Hill and directed his team to where the true celebrations for the National League champions should begin.

“Come on, let’s go in! Let’s go!” he ordered.

With that, Harper walked to the dugout and raised his arms in jubilation to the soundtrack of Phillies fans chanting “MV3! MV3! “The Phillies crawled in to the Broad Street Bubbly that was waiting for them in the clubhouse.

Harper made the scene possible because he rose to the moment Philly asked of him when he signed the richest free-agent deal in baseball history. Harper made the monumental feat of hitting a baseball look so easy in the postseason, and with the NL pennant at stake, he delivered the defining moment of his four-year Philadelphia career.

Harper hit his fifth homer of the postseason, a two-run blast in the eighth inning that turned Citizens Bank Park into a madhouse, and the $330 million slugger propelled the Phillies 4-3 at the San Diego Padres on Sunday past and into the World Series for the first time since 2009.

A swing. A counter-field shot. A game-winning home run that seemed about destined from the moment it hit the plate in the eighth inning, when the Phillies and their fans waved Bryce to deliver just one more time in the Clutch.

“I was hitting the ball, and I was just looking at my dugout and it kind of is for them all,” Harper said. “It’s for this whole team. It’s for this whole organization.”

Rhys Hoskins also hit a two-run homer in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series to set off Philadelphia’s unlikely run to the pennant and a shot at its first World Series championship since 2008.

Harper, Hoskins & crew arrive for a highly unlikely World Series championship.

Houston led 3-0 in the ALCS against the New York Yankees. Game 4 takes place in New York on Sunday night. The World Series begins Friday night at the AL Champion’s home.

Harper was named NLCS MVP, and as he placed the trophy on a podium, he made it clear that personal awards meant nothing to him without a ring.

“I don’t really care about that, but MLB makes me do it,” Harper said.

Philadelphia was 3-2 down when JT Realmuto started eighth with a single off Robert Suarez relief. Harper then lined a 2-2, 98 mph sinker in the opposite direction to the left field seats as another sell-out crowd of 45,485 shook the stadium.

Harper hoped the homer would set the stage for more highlights on deck over the next few weeks.

“We’ve got four left,” the two-time NL MVP told fans during an on-pitch celebration, and they roared again.

Left-hander Harper completed a right-hander — the Padres had left-handed closer to Josh Hader, who was warming up in the bullpen, but didn’t bring him in.

“It’s a thought at this point, but that wasn’t what we thought,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “We tried to get a four-man position for Hader and we had a lot of faith in Suarez.”

The Phillies felt the same way about Harper.

“Pure chaos, right? I don’t think anyone was surprised,” Hoskins said. “This guy has a knack for showing up in the biggest moments. He’s just done that his whole career and we’ve seen it a lot.”

Also remember: When Harper’s thumb was broken by a pitch from San Diego’s Blake Snell in late June, there were some concerns he might not return this season.

Instead, the star, who signed a 13-year contract with Philadelphia, delivered — this season, this game.

Even after Harper’s homer gave them the lead, it wasn’t an easy ending for the Phillies.

Reliever David Robertson was pulled after a couple of one-out walks in the ninth. Ranger Suárez made his first relief appearance of the season, knocking out Trent Grisham with a bun and taking out Austin Nola – the brother of Phil’s ace Aaron Nola – with a routine fly to end it with a big save.

The Phillie Phanatic waved a National League championship flag as the postseason banger “Dancing On My Own” blared through the stadium. Alec Bohm and Nick Castellanos took off their shirts and danced in the clubhouse. Cigars were rented. Cheap beer was sprayed. The alcohol puddles on the carpet went deeper than those caused by the rain in a sloppy, gusty Game 5.

Philly, get ready.

These sixth-ranked Phillies — yes, that’s a thing this season — feel like they’re just getting started.

Harper, who turned 30 last week, is batting 439 (18 to 41) with six doubles, five homers, 11 RBIs and 10 runs hit in 11 postseason games. He’s hit in 10 straight shots and hit base in 11 straight.

And the dreaded designated hitter can keep those streaks alive playing in his first World Series.

“To an extent it’s overlooked because of the way he is and the star that he is,” said Phillies manager Rob Thomson. “He’s a guy who’s a big star who delivers. Can’t say enough about that.”

Philadelphia finished third in the NL East, 87-75, a full 14 games behind the Braves with 101 wins this season, and was the last club in the majors to make the 12-team playoff field. After beating NL Central champions St. Louis 2-0 in MLB’s newly created wild card round, it took the Phillies just four games to knock out defending World Series champion Atlanta.

Now they will try to be the first team to finish third to win a World Series.

The Padres took a 3-2 lead in a sloppy seventh inning as rain pelted Citizens Bank Park, turning parts of the infield, particularly around third base, into a mud pit.

But it was Phillies representative Seranthony Dominguez’s slippery grip that nearly cost the Phillies.

Starter Zack Wheeler was fantastic again, batting eight over six innings. He was picked off in seventh place with a 2-1 lead after Jake Cronenworth’s leadoff single.

Dominguez couldn’t find a feel for the ball as the rain picked up, puddles formed near third base and the dirt in infield turned to mush. He threw a wild pitch and Josh Bell lined an RBI double to the right that made it 2-1.

Dominguz then threw two more wild pitches that allowed pinch runner Jose Azocar to race home to take the 3-2 lead. The right-hander threw just three wild pitches in 51 innings all season — then uncorked three in the seventh.

Things got tense in Philly.

But they always carried Harper in their back pocket like a lucky charm.

“Harper had a big moment there,” Padres slugger Manny Machado said. “You just have to take off your hat.”

Hoskins, Harper and Wheeler left a trail of indelible moments at Citizens Bank as they improved to 5-0 at home where they will play World Series Games 3, 4 and 5.

Game 5 of the NLCS was no exception.

The Phillies paused in the third when NL home run champion Kyle Schwarber was called out for a two-out steal base attempt. The call was canceled on replay, and the Phillies had new life.

Hoskins, hitting a rather memorable .171, smashed one from starter Yu Darvish into the left field seats as the crowd went wild. He hopped down the line while mouthing a few words to his teammates in the dugout, spinning his racquet – not unlike the ever-spinning rally towels – as he put them 2-0 up.

Wheeler gave up Soto’s solo homer in the inning that made it 2-1. Padre’s pitcher Joe Musgrove took a Polaroid photo of Soto in the dugout.

Try as they might, the Padres weren’t ready for their close-up.

The Phillies were picture perfect. Second baseman Jean Segura carved a path in the infield while the rest of the Phillies sat near the mound, started with a running start and slid headfirst into the team photo.

Then it was party time.

Harper demanded it.