Bryce Harper tells bullpen: ‘Just keep us in it, we're going to battle'

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Brandon Kintzler didn't get to join in the fun when the Phillies opened the season with a rollicking three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves. The Phillies used just half of their bullpen during the series and Kintzler simply wasn't needed.

But Kintzler's number was called Monday night and the veteran right-hander delivered a clutch performance as the Phillies made it four wins in as many games with a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets in front of 10,782 at Citizens Bank Park.

"I can't say enough about what Kintzler did," manager Joe Girardi said. "That game could have gotten away from us."

Yes, it could have.

Starter Matt Moore labored through a 31-pitch third inning and walked the first two batters in the fourth inning. Both of them scored and now the Mets were up, 2-0, and they had the bases loaded with one out.

Oh, yeah, the Mets also had two-time National League Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom on the mound and he was flashing triple-digit fastballs.

Kintzler came on for his Phillies debut and quickly got Kevin Pillar to hit into a double play to end the frame.

Kintzler followed that with a scoreless fifth inning and Sam Coonrod came on and delivered two shutout innings. Connor Brogdon put up a zero in the top of the eighth. The work that those three relievers did in keeping the game close was a major factor in the outcome of the game. The Phils rallied for five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning against Mets relievers Trevor May and Aaron Loup.

J.T. Realmuto had the game-tying base hit in the eighth after Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Mets third baseman Luis Guillorme made a killer error that led to two runs and Didi Gregorius had a sacrifice fly to cap the Phils' scoring in the decisive eighth.

But the key moment in the game occurred long before the Phillies' eighth-inning rally.

The key moment was Kintzler getting that double-play ball in the fourth.

"It changes the whole complexion," Girardi said. "He's used to being a closer and coming in in tough situations, and in a sense, that was the biggest situation in the game. You may not always think that in the fourth inning, but it turned out to probably be the biggest situation in the game."

Kintzler, 36, had 29 saves for Minnesota during an All-Star season in 2017. He had 12 saves for the Marlins last season and made the Phillies' roster after signing a minor-league deal this winter. He's been around. He can deal with pressure.

"Obviously, bases loaded, it's 2-0, and if it turns into a four- or five-run inning with deGrom on the mound, the game is pretty much over," Kintzler said. "Obviously, my job is to get a double play right there, or at least limit the damage. I think I had a really good sinker going. It's a good matchup for me and it worked out."

Girardi called on Kintzler because he was looking for a ground ball.

"The situation called for me," Kintzler said. "It was my job. It's something I'm excited about. I love being in that situation. The game is on the line in the fourth and we're all closers of our own innings, so you've got to close out that inning."

Last year, the Phillies had the worst bullpen in the majors.

Four games into the new season, the revamped bullpen has pitched 13 innings and allowed just one run.

Harper has been impressed.

"Just being able to keep us in the game," he said. "I think that is going to be the theme this year. Just keep us in it. We're going to battle."

The Phillies did get breaks in this one. The error by Guillorme was huge.

"We were fortunate," Girardi said. "An error led really to us winning that game."

So, too, did a decision by Mets manager Luis Rojas.

Before the game, Rojas said deGrom could go up to 100 pitches. But Rojas lifted his ace after six shutout innings and 77 pitches. After the game, Rojas said he lifted deGrom because he had not pitched in 10 days. Had deGrom kept going, Miguel Castro, who pitched a scoreless seventh, could have been deployed in the eighth and maybe the Phillies don't rally against May and Loup.

"We were happy as a team, of course, getting one of the best pitchers in the entire world out of the game," Harper said.

The Phillies are also happy they have a bullpen this year. 

They're 4-0.

"It's just a lot of fun coming to the ballpark every single day," Harper said.

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