Bryce Harper's two-run homer, stellar work by bullpen lifts Phillies to sweep of Red Sox

Scott Lauber, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Baseball

BOSTON -- Drew Smyly said it two weeks ago, when Bryce Harper hit two home runs to power a Phillies victory in San Francisco. And he repeated it last week, after Harper stunned the Chicago Cubs with a walk-off grand slam.

When Harper comes to the plate, Smyly says, it's almost expected that he will do something special.

Cue the fifth inning Wednesday night. Trailing by one run, having been held scoreless in the previous 12 innings by the Boston Red Sox, the Phillies needed a hit in the worst way. Harper, of course, delivered once again, launching a two-run homer into the third row of seats atop Fenway Park's fabled Green Monster.

Do you believe in clutch?

Smyly would say it has long hair and a beard.

Harper's latest well-timed power stroke provided a lead that five relievers preserved in a 5-2 victory. The Phillies completed a two-game, mini-sweep of the Red Sox and won for the sixth time in eight games to at least keep pace in the National League wild-card race.

Aaron Nola is a tough act to follow. And after he delivered seven stellar innings Tuesday night, Smyly didn't stand much chance.

But what about the work of the bullpen? Jared Hughes, rookie Ranger Suarez, Mike Morin, Jose Alvarez and Hector Neris passed the baton for 5 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Smyly, holding the Red Sox to three hits and one walk. Combined that with Tuesday night and Phillies relievers shipped out of Boston without giving up a run in 7 1/3 innings.

And now, as a reward, they get a day off Thursday in Miami before beginning a three-game series with the league-worst Marlins, against whom the Phillies nevertheless are only 6-7 this season.


The Phillies had only six hits, but four went for extra bases. Rhys Hoskins delivered his first extra-base hit in 52 plate appearances, a one-out double in the third inning. Corey Dickerson snapped an 0-for-11 skid in the seventh inning with an RBI triple that rattled around Fenway's right-field corner, then added an RBI single to center field in the ninth inning.

As usual, though, Harper had the biggest swing -- and it swung the game in the Phillies' favor. He has eight homers and an .872 slugging percentage in his last 13 games, numbers that suggest Smyly's feeling about Harper's knack for coming through in big spots isn't simply anecdotal.

Smyly lasted for only 3 2/3 innings, hardly the long-distance start that the Phillies need from the non-Nola members of the rotation. It could have been worse, though. Smyly gave up five hits and three walks, but for all of that traffic on the bases, the Red Sox scored only two runs on back-to-back doubles by Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers in the first inning and a solo homer by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the second.

The deficit was more than manageable, if only the Phillies could jumpstart their offense. No dice through four innings, as they generated only one hit and three walks. After scoring three runs in the first inning Tuesday night, they were held scoreless for 12 subsequent innings. They had only one hit in the last nine innings.

But the drought ended in the fifth. Cesar Hernandez led off with a double, advanced on a wild pitch, and scored when Devers couldn't handle catcher Christian Vazquez's throw to third. Adam Haseley worked a walk, setting up Harper for another big moment.

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