NEW YORK — The Philadelphia Phillies have used the MVP-caliber play of Bryce Harper and Cy Young-worthy performances of Zack Wheeler to stay in touch in the race for the National League East division crown. Their supporting cast is going to need to help the duo get over the top, and Friday night’s game is a good sign for their championship prospects down the stretch.
First baseman Brad Miller hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the fifth inning and the much-maligned Philadelphia Phillies bullpen held the fort in support of Wheeler as the Phillies defeated the New York Mets 4-3 at Citi Field. With Atlanta losing in extra innings in San Francisco later in the evening, the Phillies are now just two games in back of first place in the division.
Wheeler, who threw a complete game shutout in Philadelphia against the Mets last month, extended his scoreless streak against his former team to 25 innings before allowing a run in the fifth inning. Harper smacked a double in the fourth inning, marking his 23rd in the second half of the season. (Harper has 37 doubles overall in 2021.)
But the biggest hit for Philadelphia came from Miller, and the biggest pitches came from Philadelphia’s relief. New York Mets starter pitcher Taijuan Walker had retired 10 of the last 11 hitters before Miller smacked a towering solo home run into the bleachers in right-center field to break a 1-1 tie and give the Phillies the lead for good. The Phillies added solo runs in the seventh, on a Matt Vierling sacrifice fly, and in the eighth on a Didi Gregorius double that scored Odúbel Herrera. The production from lower in the Phillies’ order was a welcomed sight, and what needs to continue to keep pace with Atlanta’s powerful lineup down the stretch.
“That’s the formula, right?,” Miller said. “You want to win consistently. You don’t want to just have to rely on one guy. Luckily, we’ve got a pretty good one [in Harper]. But if you want to win three, four, five games in a row, win series all the time, it’s got to come from everybody. And tonight there was a lot of good stuff.”
Some of the good stuff surprisingly came from the beleaguered Phillies bullpen, which allowed two runs in four innings of work. Wheeler left after five-plus innings, giving up a run and leaving with runners on first and second after Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso started the sixth innings with singles. José Alvarado came in for Wheeler and induced a double play from Michael Conforto and, after walking Javier Báez, struck out pinch-hitter J.D. Davis to end the threat and preserve the Phillies’ one-run lead.
The Mets cut their deficit to 4-3 in the eighth inning on RBI doubles by Conforto and Kevin Pillar off of Archie Bradley, but then closer Ian Kennedy came in and struck out James McCann with the tying run, Pillar, on second base to end the inning.
Kennedy pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn the save, leaving the Mets a season-high four games under .500 and 5.5 games behind Atlanta for the NL East.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s contest, with photos taken by ALOST photographer Danny Suriel. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 31 pictures in total.