NEW YORK — Eventually, Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper found the perfect answer to the cacophony of heckling he received with almost every step he took during Friday’s doubleheader: an equally-as-loud home run clout that helped the Phillies avoid a second heart-breaking loss in the span of a few hours.
Harper launched a two-out homer to right-centerfield to break a scoreless tie in the sixth inning and Odubel Herrera’s RBI groundout in extras secured a 2-1 victory in eight innings over the New York Mets at Citi Field, securing a split of the doubleheader between the teams. Matt Moore pitched five scoreless innings for the Phillies, while Hector Neris struck out Dominic Smith with the tying run at third to end the ball game.
During his start turn in the National League East, starting as a teen with the Washington Nationals and continuing on with the Phillies, almost no road stop has been met with more derision from opposing fans than visits to the Big Apple, and Harper left it late on Friday to give Mets fans an unwanted going-away gift. With the game still scoreless in the sixth, Harper tomahawked a fastball at eye level on an 0-2 pitch from starter David Peterson just over the wall in right center for his 11th home run of the season.
After crossing home plate, Harper blew a couple of kisses to the not-so-adoring public, once again relishing in the role of the marked man.
“I have a lot of fans here in Citi Field. Just thought I’d say hi and let them know I’m still here,” Harper said about his post-homer gestures to the crowd. “It’s always fun coming in here. We always badger back and forth. We have ever since I was 19. It’s just always fun coming here. It’s always fun.”
All of Harper’s 11 home runs this season have been solo shots, though runs during this series against one of the best pitching staffs in baseball in New York will be at a premium no matter the value attached to any long ball. After losing an extra-inning affair in Game 1 to waste a record-setting performance from starter Aaron Nola, plus the prospect of facing Jacob deGrom on Saturday afternoon, salvaging a split was imperative for the Phillies to keep morale up heading into the daunting task in less than 24 hours’ time.
“We’ve got to get it done,” Harper said. “We knew coming into this series we have to get it done. It’s a lot different going 1-1 today instead of 0-2 going into tomorrow against deGrom. He’s the best pitcher in all of baseball. We’re looking forward to what we can do against him tomorrow. It’s going to be tough, of course, but we need to go out there and do our thing.”
New York almost made today a clean sweep with a second consecutive come-from-behind win in the seventh after the Mets loaded the bases with no one out off Archie Bradley after a single, error and a walk. Bradley was able to strike out Patrick Mazeika before James McCann sent a fly ball to the warning track that Odubel Herrera tracked down, scoring Billy McKinney and tying the score at 1. Jeff McNeil grounded out to second to end the threat.
The normally staunch Mets defense made a couple of miscues — though not officially errors — that allowed the Phillies to score the automatic runner from second to take the lead in the eight. Brad Miller sent a ground ball to shortstop to start the eighth, but Francisco Lindor’s bobble after fielding the ball cost him a shot at the lead runner at third and had to settle for the out at first. The next hitter, Herrera, sent a sharp ground ball that third baseman Luis Guillorme snagged cleanly on a dive. But he also bobbled the ball trying to transfer the ball to his bare hand, costing him a shot at a play at the plate as Guillorme threw to first while pinch runner Travis Jankowski came home with the go-ahead run.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s contest, with photographs taken by ALOST senior photographer Robert Cole. 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 15 pictures in total.