Harper on the playoff vibe at Citizens Bank Park: ‘That's why I came here'


The Phillies were back home Friday night for the first time since the trade deadline to start a huge series against the Mets with first place on the line.

In the time they'd been away from home, they traded for Kyle Gibson, Ian Kennedy and Freddy Galvis, won five straight games to end their trip and received the best week-long stretch Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto have had together as Phillies.

Harper heard MVP chants all night as the Phils beat the Mets, 4-2, in front of a crowd of more than 30,000. He responded by hitting an enormous two-run homer in the eighth inning that proved crucial as Kennedy was taken deep in the ninth.

Fans chant MVP in a lot of cities for their top guys, but Harper has a legitimate shot to win this thing with a strong final seven weeks. He's on fire, is toward the top of numerous important NL leaderboards, his power is contributing to Phillies wins and some top candidates like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jacob deGrom have slipped because of injuries.

He definitely heard the chants Friday night.

"That's why I came here. That's why I wanted to be a Phillie, because of this fanbase," Harper said. "Whenever you have a fanbase that does that, not just the chants but the way they show up and show out, they make us better. They make us want to be great.

"You live for those moments and grind for those moments so you can perform for your team, your city, your organization. It's just so much fun playing games that matter, games that make you emotional and super intense.

"It fires us all up, the way they're in it every single inning. I can't say it enough. It just excites me walking up the steps and seeing it first-hand."

Harper is hitting .305/.415/.568 with 19 homers and 44 RBI. He's reached base in 36 of his last 62 plate appearances with 13 extra-base hits -- nine doubles and four homers.

Most importantly, the Phillies are winning. They've won six in a row, their longest streak since June 2018. They've needed every bit of Harper's surge because Andrew McCutchen is on the injured list, Rhys Hoskins has missed five of the last six games with a groin injury and Didi Gregorius appeared to re-injure his problematic left elbow Friday night when he was hit by a pitch on the funny bone.

Harper is obviously not alone with his recent contributions. Realmuto has driven in 12 runs in his last nine games. Setup man Archie Bradley has emerged as the reliever the Phillies paid $6 million for, allowing one earned run in 15 innings since June 30 for a 0.56 ERA. Hector Neris has been money since his blow-up outing against the Padres on July 4, allowing runs in just one of his last 13 appearances. Jean Segura has raked all season. Role players at the bottom of the order like Ronald Torreyes and Travis Jankowski have well-exceeded expectations.

But it's August 7. The Phillies did not win the division on Friday night. They've put themselves in a good spot to win the NL East and can -- sports cliché alert -- control their own destiny over the final 52 games.

"You can't sit on it," Harper said. "This division's way too tough. That's a good Mets team. They're gonna get Francisco Lindor back, gonna get deGrom back. We just have to keep playing our game and not worry about what the Mets and Braves are doing. Just do us."

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