Phillies nearly end August in dramatic, fitting fashion before blown save

Phillies nearly end August in dramatic, fitting fashion before blown save originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Phillies nearly ended August in fitting fashion, with two go-ahead home runs from their two hottest and highest-paid players in the final innings of their series finale against the Angels.

Trea Turner brought them back from a two-run deficit with a three-run shot in the sixth inning, and after Gregory Soto allowed two runs in the eighth, Bryce Harper put them back in front with a dramatic two-run bomb of his own, No. 300 for his career.

Harper came out for a curtain call as the Citizens Bank Park crowd of 34,655 went nuts. The Phillies needed three more outs to complete a sweep.

Craig Kimbrel, however, was unable to close it out. The first batter he faced in the ninth reached on a dropped third strike and scored on a sacrifice fly. With two outs, Kimbrel allowed a two-run homer to Brandon Drury in a 10-8 Phillies loss.

"I'm very happy for him, I wish I could've closed this down for him today," Kimbrel said of Harper. "He's a very special player and we're really getting to see him heat up now. It's pretty cool to see."

The Phils finished their homestand 7-2 and are 74-59 overall. They'll end the night no worse than three games ahead of the second wild-card team.

August 2023 was a month they wished would never end. The Phillies went 17-10 with 59 home runs, 13 more than they had in any month ever. They led the majors in homers and slugging percentage and ranked second to the Braves in runs scored.

Harper played like an MVP in August, hitting .361 with 10 homers, nine doubles, a triple, 24 RBI and 23 runs scored in 26 games.

"Hopefully 300 more," he said after the game. "Growing up, you don't really think about (first, second or third), you think about the bigger numbers. I love where I'm at on a personal level and where this team is as well. There's bigger numbers in my head but 300 is pretty good.

"I really wanted to do it at home in front of this fanbase and this great city. I'm bummed we weren't able to close it out and sweep but I thought we had a great week at home, won the games we had to, and now get ready for this road trip.

"Being able to do it at home in front of these fans, there's nothing like it. I'm very fortunate and very blessed to put this uniform on each day with Phillies across my chest. I'm so thankful that me and John (Middleton) were able to sit down after the 2018 season and get something done. Very fortunate to have a long-term deal and play this game for a long time. Hopefully I'm able to do it for even longer than my contract says now.

"I just love being a Phillie, plain and simple. It's something I dreamed about, this fanbase, this city, I love them, plain and simple. I feel like I'm part of this family, there's nothing like it. I could go on and on, everybody thinks I pander a lot, but it's real. It's so real. It's from the bottom of my heart and I'm just thankful to put this jersey on every day."

Turner is just as hot as Harper, hitting .370 in his last 23 games with 19 extra-base hits. His OPS is the highest it's been since April 23.

The Phillies have scored 99 runs in their last 13 games, an average of 7.6 per night. The majority of damage Wednesday was done by Turner and Harper, but Nick Castellanos and Garrett Stubbs also had multi-hit games and Brandon Marsh walked four times. Marsh is hitting .290 with a .381 on-base percentage. Over the last 13 years, Harper is the only Phillie to reach those numbers over a full season.

Really, though, the hot streak dates much farther back. The Phillies are 49-27 since June 3, trailing only the Braves in record and run differential. They rank first in MLB over that span in ERA, third in batting average, fourth in home runs and OPS and fifth in runs.

“We come from behind almost every single game, which is a good and bad thing,” Turner said. “I think that's special, not every group can do that. And I feel like we have a little bit of a knack for that. The other thing is I think we can just win so many different ways. Whether it's small ball, you know, the bunting has been really good the last few games. We’ve been hitting homers. We’ve been manufacturing runs, we’ve been stealing some bases, we can pitch, we can make some good plays on defense, so it's just a little bit everything and I think that versatility is really big going forward.”

Cristopher Sanchez' string of solid starts came to an end Wednesday. He gave up five runs in 4⅔ innings, falling short of completing five frames for the first time in a dozen starts. This was only his second time giving up more than three runs. Still, the Phillies are 7-7 in his starts. They were 2-10 earlier this season in starts by Bailey Falter and openers out of the No. 5 spot.

The Phils are off Thursday before beginning a six-game road trip Friday night. The first three games are in Milwaukee, the last three are in San Diego. After they finish with the Brewers, the Phillies have only one team with a winning record left on their schedule: the Braves.

The Phillies will avoid both Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff in Milwaukee but they will see right-handed strikeout machine Freddy Peralta in Game 1 Friday. Peralta has been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball and a major reason for the Brewers' second-half push. He has a 1.75 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 36 innings as the Brewers have won each of his last six starts.

Zack Wheeler starts Friday and Aaron Nola Saturday. Ranger Suarez could make his return on Sunday as long as Friday's bullpen session goes well. If so, Taijuan Walker would be pushed back to the Padres series.

They should also have outfielder Cristian Pache back this weekend as MLB rosters expand Friday (September 1) from 26 to 28.

The Phillies are not going to hit 59 homers every month. What makes Harper think they can sustain a level of production close to the August outburst?

"We're that team, I think that's what everyone was waiting for, those moments. That's the team we are," Harper said. "We're so built on offense, we've got great pitching as well, but if we hit and play the right way on the field, we're going to win a lot of games. You guys saw that in August. We've got a pretty dang good schedule going into September, a lot of good teams we're going to play, just got to keep this rolling. We all love playing in September and you know we love playing in October, so we've just got to get there."