Tonight was another edition of “the most important game of the year” for the Phillies. The Braves had already won, so the Phillies knew what they had to do in order to stay a game back. This one being on ESPN, a national broadcast that is seen by many more eyes than a usual Phillies-Mets affair, they knew they had to come out smoking. In the first inning, they got some fireworks to make sure they made an impression.
Bryce Harper walked with two outs, then took his lead off of first on a 3-2 pitch to J.T. Realmuto. Taking a running head start, he saw that Realmuto hit a ball softly in between Jeff McNeil in leftfield and Brandon Nimmo in centerfield, he ran hard toward third. Seeing the stop sign put on, he took a gamble that the ball would be thrown to second and kept right on going past Dusty Wathan. The result? A stolen run and a lead.
That play was Harper’s attempt to set a tone for the game that the Phillies were going to be aggressive during the game and that Harper would lead the charge.
The offense for both teams would sort of disappear for the next few innings as Rich Hill and Kyle Gibson shutdown the bats by racking up strikeouts. The fifth saw the Phillies get a single from Freddy Galvis and a groundrule double from Jean Segura with one out, meaning a base was open for Hill to put Harper on intentionally.
He did not choose to do so.
Harper made sure he would regret it.
What a strange decision by the Mets, but the Phillies couldn’t get another one, meaning it was only 2-0, close enough that the Mets could make a charge. In their half of the fifth, they did just that, getting two runs when McNeil singled and Tomas Nido doubled to put men on second and third with no one out. Dominic Smith would pinch hit and deliver for New York.
Dominic Smith, who hasn't started a game in 10 days, just ripped a game-tying, two-run double into the right-field corner. He's 3-for-8 as a pinch-hitter since his last start.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 20, 2021
Mets 2, Phillies 2, bottom five. pic.twitter.com/jFxPT1KfYR
It would stay that way into the seventh. In that inning, though the Phillies didn’t score, there was at least a threat made to put a run across when Galvis singled, Segura and Harper walked to load the bases for Realmuto. Aaron Loup, who had been brought in to get Harper out only to walk, got Realmuto to swing at a ball off the plate and roll over on a groundball that ended the threat. The interesting thing about the inning was that Joe Girardi allowed starter Kyle Gibson to hit for himself even though he had options in bullpen. Would it backfire?
The bottom of the seventh would give our answer.
Gibson was good all night, but that pitch was just a hanging changeup that McNeil was able to get the barrel on and drive out the deep rightfield. It sullied a solid outing by Gibson, turning his potentially huge night into one that would end in disappointment for him.
The Mets would get runners on in the eighth, but couldn’t get anything, meaning they had to try and get three outs before getting to Harper in the ninth. Their closer is Edwin Diaz, meaning that wasn’t going to happen. Diaz hit Galvis with one out to put the runner on, but somehow got usually eagle-eyed Jean Segura to chase ball four for the second out. That set up a showdown with Harper. The way Harper has been playing, it almost felt inevitable that he’d get the win here, but Diaz kept the ball down and induced a flyball from Harper, getting the third out and ending the game.
The Phillies are now two games back and have thirteen left to play in order to close that gap. It begins with Baltimore tomorrow night in Philadelphia.