The Philadelphia Phillies were down to the Chicago Cubs entering the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night. The Cubs have had a dicey bullpen all season long, so this was by no means a sure thing, but that doesn’t make what happened any less nad-rocking, for all but the most committed Bryce Harper truthers.
Harper—who by many perfectly sensible measures has had a perfectly fine season but nonetheless needed exactly this kind of moment to go his way—came to the plate with one out and the bases loaded, and the Phillies trailing 5–3. Bryce, who to that point was 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts, fought off an 0–2 hole and then smoked the sixth pitch of the at-bat for a walk-off no-doubter:
Bryce has socked a lot of dingers in his day, and more than a couple of the go-ahead or game-winning or game-ending variety, but I cannot remember him ever being quite this pumped. Harper was hooting and hollering around the bases, and triumphantly spiked the bejeezus out of his helmet when he got to home plate, where he was mobbed by his euphoric teammates. Perhaps his joy was amplified by the sensation of truly sending that baseball to hell:
Harper’s mighty grand slam put a dramatic finish on a Phillies series sweep of the Cubs. We’ve reached the part of the season where these games really start to feel important—the win brought the Phillies to within a game of the Cubs for the second National League wild-card spot. Harper’s done plenty to help the Phillies besides hitting for power, but he’s still battling uphill against the tough but fair perception that this first season in Philadelphia has been something of a bust. That’s beyond the scope of this here blog post, but let’s just say it’s a lot easier to appreciate his value when he’s bashing huge dingers into the night sky.