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How Jeanmar Gomez got revenge on Bryce Harper

In their series opening win against the Nationals on Tuesday, the nail biter came down to two men. Jeanmar Gomez and Bryce Harper.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Admit it, you were nervous.

Even though this is a season in which no one expects to end with the Phillies going to the playoffs, finishing with a winning record, or heck, even getting to the mid-70s in wins, Tuesday night's 4-3 victory over the Nationals made you nervous.

You were biting your nails as the Phils desperately held onto their one-run lead, with Anthony Rendon at first base and the game's hottest and most dangerous slugger, Bryce Harper at the plate.

You no doubt remembered the last time closer Jeanmar Gomez faced Harper with the game on the line. It didn't go well.

All was well that ended well in that one, as the Phillies scored two in the bottom of the 10th off Jonathan Papelbon for an extremely satisfying victory. Still, when Harper came to the plate as the winning run on Tuesday night, it was sweaty palms time.

Earlier in the game, Harper hit an RBI single that drew the Nationals to within 3-2. They would go on to tie the game at 3-3 in the 5th. And in 278 career plate appearances against the Phils, Harper has a .932 OPS, with 14 homers, 10 doubles and three triples.

Folks, this was as dangerous a situation as it gets. Walking Harper was not really an option, as it would have put the tying run in scoring position. Jeanmar Gomez had to get Harper out.

And, after a long, eight-pitch at-bat, he finally did.

It is perhaps the most intense, nerve-wracking moment the 2016 Phillies have had so far, and perhaps the most nerve-wracking moment since Cole Hamels' no-hitter last year.

So how did Jeanmar do it? How did he get the nearly invincible Bryce Harper out? Let's break it down pitch-by-pitch.

Clearly a little amped-up, Gomez' first pitch was a 91 mph sinker that dove down into the dirt. It was never a strike out of his hand. Harper had the early edge, up 1-0 in the count.

Pitch number two was a much better sinker, again 91 mph, but with great late life. Gomez kept it down in the zone and Harper swung over top of it. The count was even at 1-1.

Now Gomez gets the upper hand, with another 91 mph sinker. This one Harper fouled off harmlessly after it showed some late life tailing away from Harper's barrel. Now, Gomez has some pitches to work with. Does he go off-speed?

Nope. Gomez stays with the hard stuff, this time a four-seam fastball that he tries to elevate and change the eye level of Harper. But Harper gets his bat on the ball and fouls it off. The third foul ball of the at bat.

Yet another foul ball on the fifth pitch of the at bat. Gomez tries to induce a grounder into the shift and takes a little off his sinker, at 88 mph. Harper stays on it but grounds one foul past Ryan Howard. That's four foul balls in this at bat, if you're not counting at home.

On pitch number six, it seems to me that Gomez got away with one. That pitch was belt-high and tailed right over the middle of the plate. And as you can see, Harper just missed it, fouling it straight back.


Pitch number seven is another sinker, 88 mph, down and out of the strike zone. Harper has gotten the count even at 2-2. While Gomez still has another pitch to play with, you certainly don't want to run a full count on Harper and start the runner.

Which brings us to pitch number eight.

After throwing nothing but fastballs and sinkers, Gomez throws a gutsy, 2-2 changeup at 81 mph that Harper is out in front of. He weakly grounds to Maikel Franco, the only player on that side of the infield, for the final out of the game.

Everyone exhales.

Gomez did a terrific job changing Harper's eye level in that plate appearance and executed a changeup that knocked the best hitter in the game off his timing. It's just the latest instance in which Gomez proved his worth as a closer.

In 10 appearances so far this year (12.0 IP), he has a 2.25 ERA and a 3.27 FIP with 10 strikeouts and, most importantly, just three walks. He's 5-for-5 in save opportunities and has held opponents to a .200 batting average this season.

His battle with Harper was the confrontation of the season so far, but it's more than likely these two will match wits a few more times this season with the game on the line.

For one night, Gomez got his revenge.

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