ST. LOUIS — As Bryce Harper walked into the Phillies’ clubhouse at Busch Stadium on Saturday, he noticed Rhys Hoskins.
“We are not losing this game,” Harper mentioned.
He had the identical greeting for Alec Bohm. Aaron Nola heard him repeat it to a few others, too. Harper has been announcing it for days, in truth, to everybody and nobody specifically, like a guy possessed. And in the 9th inning, when the St. Louis Cardinals introduced the successful run to the plate, Harper walked up and down the dugout and mentioned, “We are not losing this game. No chance. We’re not losing this game.”
“All day,” he mentioned later. “In the clubhouse, in the dugout, everything. All day. You have to speak it into existence.”
Well, wager what: It’s running.
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In sweeping St. Louis, 2-0, in the best-of-three National League wild-card spherical, the Phillies retired Albert Pujols and received their first postseason collection since 2010, 12 months earlier than Pujols and the Cardinals ended Philadelphia’s closing golden generation of baseball. They complex to a divisional collection towards the protecting World Series champion Braves starting Tuesday night time in Atlanta.
But it additionally marked the first time Harper complex in the playoffs in his 11-year occupation. In 4 earlier postseason collection, all with the Washington Nationals, none since 2017, he went house after the first spherical. In 3 of the ones years (2012, 2016, 2017), the Nationals misplaced a decisive Game 5, all thrice at house.
So, it used to be completely becoming that Harper hit the house run to offer the Phillies the lead that enabled them to transparent the exact same hurdle that were too top for him to succeed in.
“That really hasn’t been on my mind,” Harper mentioned, steps clear of the place slight catcher Garrett Stubbs sat on husky Darick Hall’s shoulders amid the Phillies’ 2nd celebratory champagne-and-beer bash in six days. “It’s more just having the opportunity to be here with the Philadelphia Phillies, having the opportunity to get to that next round, beating a really good St. Louis team. We’re all just happy to keep going, keep playing our game.”
Lately, Harper’s recreation has been, neatly, off. He has been candid about looking for his timing at the plate ever since he returned on Aug. 26 from a two-month absence with a damaged left thumb. He has been overdue on fastballs, out in entrance on breaking pitches. As intervening time supervisor Rob Thomson has mentioned, Harper is “stuck in between.”
So, it used to be a stunning sight for the Phillies when Harper learn the spin on Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas’ first-pitch curveball in the 2nd inning, stayed again on the ball, and smashed it into the right-field bullpen, hushing the sold-out crowd of 48,515, the greatest postseason crowd ever at Busch Stadium.
“Felt great,” Harper mentioned. “Any time you can get a barrel and go up 1-0 in a road city, it’s really good. I just want to win. If I go 0-for-4 and we win the game, I’m in. That’s all that matters right now. But I know when I have good at-bats, our team is going well.”
Said Hoskins: “The first thing Bryce told me today is we are not losing this game. Then he goes out and hits a home run in his first at-bat. That’s MVP-type stuff right there. It was awesome.”
This has all been a very long time coming — for the Phillies and their greatest celebrity. Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract — nonetheless the greatest deal when it comes to total price for a unfastened agent — earlier than the 2019 season. Since then, he watched the Nationals win a World Series with out him whilst the Phillies saved lacking out on the playoffs.
When the Phillies clinched a wild card closing week in Houston, the 3rd leg of a street commute that may now duvet 5 towns in 16 days, Harper mentioned “it means everything” to the group. It modified the narrative round the group. Instead of at all times arising quick, the Phillies in any case made it to the event.
Winning a collection has a identical impact. The Phillies punched their price ticket towards the Astros, dissatisfied the Cardinals, and will likely be underdogs towards the Braves. But as J.T. Realmuto put it, “Nobody’s excited to play the Phillies right now.” And when used to be the closing time that may be mentioned with a directly face?
If Harper is urging his teammates to refuse to lose, Thomson is encouraging a countdown to the World Series identify. As the Phillies’ victory celebration spilled from the subject into the clubhouse, Thomson pulled apart Realmuto. A couple of mins later, he ended a quick speech to the group by way of inviting the celebrity catcher to the heart of the room.
“Eleven more [wins], Topper,” Realmuto mentioned.
Moving directly to the divisional spherical additionally manner the Phillies will go back house to Citizens Bank Park. Game 3 will likely be Friday night time. They have not hosted a postseason recreation since Oct. 7, 2011. Nobody performs to the crowd like Harper, who most likely will get away his inexperienced Phanatic spikes when he stands on the first-base line all over pregame introductions.
“We’re excited to see the towels in the stands,” Harper mentioned. “I can’t wait to get back. I’ve got chills right now. I don’t know if it’s because I’m cold from the beer, but I’m fired up. I can’t wait to get back.”
In the period in-between, he’s going to inform any individual inside earshot in Atlanta that the Phillies are not going to lose. Not Game 1. Or Game 2. It’s a signal of management from a famous person who most often prefers to set a tone together with his play quite than being vocal in the clubhouse. With the Phillies, that has a tendency to fall to Kyle Schwarber.
But it is the playoffs, a level Harper has no longer performed in too lengthy. And he does not intend to depart it after handiest a few video games.
“It’s just a message out there: We’re not going to lose,” Thomson mentioned. “We’re going to do whatever we can to win this game. And I think that’s a good message. I really do.”