PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bryce Harper hit a go-ahead solo homer in the seventh inning as one of the few regulars in Philadelphia's lineup, and the Phillies rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-6 on Wednesday night, a day after clinching the NL's top wild-card spot.
Surviving the game without incident was the goal for the Phillies.
Manager Rob Thomson said, yes, it would be nice if the Phillies — now with 89 victories — could reach 90 over their final four games. A night after the Phillies secured a spot in the postseason, and with the knowledge they will open Game 1 of the playoffs Tuesday at home, Thomson said the goal was simply getting to the playoffs in one piece.
Wins and losses don't necessarily matter.
"Not now. Not one bit," Thomson said ahead of the game. "I mean, it'd be nice to get to 90 wins. But to put people in jeopardy to get 90 wins, I'm not going to do that."
A night after a raucous late-night celebration that saw outfielder Brandon Marsh ride a mechanical bull, designated hitter Kyle Schwarber, third baseman Alec Bohm, catcher J.T. Realmuto and right fielder Nick Castellanos all took the night off.
Harper played first base, had three hits, and slugged his 21st homer of the season off reliever José Hernández (1-3) for the 7-6 lead.
Gregory Soto struck out the side in the ninth inning for his third save.
And yes, Garrett Stubbs also played.
The backup catcher became a social media hit in Philadelphia after videos of him dancing and drinking in overalls in the clubhouse on Tuesday night were unleashed into the viral universe, and there was faux concern that he could actually play.
Was he really hydrated? Was he rested?
Stubbs took a healthy cut on a four-seam fastball from Pirates starter Johan Oviedo in the fourth and hammered a three-run homer to right, his first of the season.
Phillies fans went wild for their cult hero, and he was welcomed at home with a warm embrace from Bryson Stott.
That cut the Phils' deficit to 5-4, the second time in as many years the Phillies trailed early in the first game after a clincher. A year ago, the Phillies secured a wild-card spot in Houston, then Ranger Suárez went out and got rocked for six runs in two innings the next game. It happened again against the Pirates.
Suarez gave up three runs in the first and two in the second against the Pirates. The 28-year-old left-hander was chased in the fifth after Jack Suwinski tripled in a run to make it 6-4.
Edmundo Sosa hit his 10th homer of the year for the Phillies, a solo shot, and Cristian Pache tied the game 6-all on an RBI single in the sixth that scored Harper.
Connor Joe had four hits for the Pirates.
STAR IS BORN
Phillies rookie reliever Orion Kerkering (1-0) threw 18 sliders and struck out two in a scoreless inning of relief for his first big league win. He's thrown two shutout innings in two appearances since his debut over the weekend. The 22-year-old Kerkering blazed through four stops in the minor leagues this year and was expected to make the postseason roster.
Thomson named Zack Wheeler the Game 1 starter Tuesday in theand Aaron Nola starts Game 2 the following day. Wheeler starts the series finale Thursday. Nola will skip his final scheduled start.
Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins continues to make progress in his return from a torn ACL in his left knee that has cost him all season. Hoskins might soon see some live pitching, and Thomson continues to say "there's a chance" the popular slugger is back for the World Series, should the Phillies make it. Hoskins would be a DH or pinch hitter only and would not play first base.
Hoskins is a candidate to head to Clearwater, Florida, to continue his rehab and work out with minor leaguers the Phillies have sent to their complex to stay ready in case they are needed in the postseason. Darick Hall, Weston Wilson, Kody Clemens and pitchers Andrew Bellatti, Connor Brogdon and Nick Nelson are among the group headed to Florida.
Zack Wheeler (13-6, 3.64 ERA) gets the start for the Phillies in the series finale on Thursday. The Pirates did not name a starter.
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