Given a chance to DH so he could ease the burden on his bothersome back, Bryce Harper homered twice against his former team, helping the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Washington Nationals 12-3 Wednesday night and pushing the 2019 World Series champions to the brink of elimination from the playoff race.
The loss ended Washington’s modest — albeit season-best — four-game winning streak and left its record at 23-33.
A victory by Milwaukee, San Francisco or St. Louis later Wednesday would rule out a postseason return for the Nationals.
The Phillies are 28-29 and third in the NL East but still in the chase for a playoff berth.
Harper, who left the nation’s capital for a $330 million contract with the team up I-95 before last season, connected off Erick Fedde twice to reach 13 homers for the year — on a 94 mph sinker in the first inning and a 77 mph curveball in the sixth to make it 3-1.
Harper was walked intentionally in his other three plate appearances.
Zach Eflin (4-2) earned the win by giving up three runs in eight-plus innings.
Fedde (2-4) allowed three runs in seven innings. Philadelphia went up 12-1 by tacking on three in the eighth against Kyle McGowin, including Andrew McCutchen’s solo homer, and another six in the ninth on three-run shots by Didi Gregorius and Andrew Knapp off Ryne Harper.
Until Wednesday, Harper — usually an outfielder — was hitting just .143 in nine games against Washington this season, with zero extra-base hits, one RBI and 14 strikeouts.
Manager Joe Girardi said Harper’s back has been bothering him off and on for about four or five weeks.
“There’s been better days than other days,” Girardi said, explaining that he thinks Harper can heal with rest.
Asked whether he would like his up-in-the-air contract status resolved before the season ends, Nationals manager Dave Martinez said his agent and GM Mike Rizzo have “had many conversations; they’re talking about it; I leave that up to them.” Martinez joined Washington on a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth in 2021, which has not been picked up. “I love it here. I don’t see myself going anywhere else,” Martinez said. “I appreciate the family. I appreciate this organization. We’ve built a special relationship here, so I hope I get a chance to stay for many, many years.” Then he paused for five seconds before adding: “The sooner, the better, though.”
SOTO IN RIGHT
Nationals slugger Juan Soto was in LF or the DH for each of the first 307 games of his career, before starting in RF for Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader and homering for the first time in September. Soto made a second consecutive start in right Wednesday and hit a two-run shot in the ninth. “Right now, honestly, it’s a part of keeping him engaged," Martinez said. Asked whether this could be seen as a precursor to looking for a left fielder in free agency, Martinez chuckled. “It could be a possibility,” he replied. “Use your imagination.”
Phillies: 1B Rhys Hoskins (left elbow) is unlikely to be activated off the injured list before the regular season ends, Girardi said. ... J.T. Realmuto (strained left hip flexor) started at 1B instead of catcher and drove in a run with a bases-loaded groundout.
Nationals: 3B Carter Kieboom (bruised left wrist) went on the 10-day IL, and RHP Wil Crowe was recalled to the active roster.
Phillies: Off on Thursday, then finish the regular season with a three-game series at Tampa Bay that opens Friday.
Nationals: Begin a four-game home series against the New York Mets on Thursday to close the regular season, with LHP Patrick Corbin (2-6, 4.76 ERA) going to the mound for Washington. The Mets are the only team Corbin has beaten in 2020, going 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts against them.
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