Final: Phillies 4, Orioles 3
Bryce Harper entered Wednesday evening’s game with -9 defensive runs saved in right field, one of the worst marks in baseball. However, a key late-game defensive play may have bolstered his National League MVP candidacy, while helping to keep the Philadelphia Phillies postseason hopes alive.
After five scoreless frames, the Baltimore Orioles took the lead in the top of the sixth inning as Austin Hays doubled into left field, which Andrew McCutchen fielded and fired to the cut-off man, Didi Gregorius.
If Gregorius had made a good throw, Ryan Mountcastle would have been out at the plate, as he tried to score from first base. Unfortunately for the Phillies, Gregorius’ throw was high, allowing Mountcastle to score and Hays to advance to third base:
To Wheeler’s credit, he was able to strike out the final two batters of the inning (with some great framing from J.T. Realmuto), stranding Hays at third base:
Stranding that runner proved huge, as a single off the bat of Harper knocked Keegan Akin out of the game after 5 1/3 innings. But while reliever Eric Hanhold was able to get Realmuto to fly out, McCutchen then proceeded to hit a fly ball that went 423 feet and gave the Phillies a lead:
In theory, the decision by Orioles manager Brandon Hyde to make sure that McCutchen didn’t face a left-handed pitcher was a smart one. After all, McCutchen entered the evening with a 1.056 OPS against left-handed pitchers, drastically higher than the .619 OPS he had against right-handed pitchers. Sometimes, veteran players buck trends in key moments, though.
The Orioles, to their credit, would quickly tie the game in the top of the seventh inning, as pinch hitter Trey Mancini drove in Richie Martin on an RBI groundout off of Sam Coonrod.
For the second consecutive night, Realmuto came through with a big hit in the bottom of the seventh inning. After Jean Segura drove in Matt Vierling with a sacrifice fly, Hyde and the Orioles elected to intentionally walk Harper, with Brad Miller already on second base. Again, this was seemingly the right baseball decision, but Realmuto singled into center field off of Conner Greene, extending the Phillies lead to 4-2:
Harper would ultimately be stranded on third base, with Brooks Kriske getting McCutchen to fly out in foul territory to end the inning.
Cam Bedrosian wasn’t able to work a clean top of the eighth inning, after the two-run seventh for the Phillies. The Orioles pulled back to within one run on an RBI double by Pedro Severino. Two batters later, Pat Valaika singled into right field, which seemingly was going to tie the game. Harper, though, deked the Orioles and when they tested his arm, the National League MVP favorite was happy to record his eighth outfield assist of the season:
While Ian Kennedy needed 32 pitches in the top of the ninth, he ultimately recorded the save, with the Phillies defeating the Orioles in the rubber match of the September series.
With the win, the Phillies move to 78-74. It increasingly seems like the Atlanta Braves aren’t interested in relinquishing the National League East lead, but the Phillies do find themselves four wins away from their first winning season since 2011.
- Keegan Akin entered the evening with a 6.93 ERA, but left with a 6.63 ERA, turning in his best start of 2021. Akin scattered five hits across 5 1/3 innings, with the lone run he allowed coming when Andrew McCutchen’s two-run home run scored Bryce Harper, who Akin was responsible for.
- Zack Wheeler struck out nine Orioles over six frames Wednesday, allowing four hits and one run. Wheeler has a 2.79 ERA, 2.61 FIP and 6.9 fWAR across 206 1/3 innings.
- Thursday, Sept. 23 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park
- 7:05 p.m. ET
- TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP
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