Bryce Harper slugged his fifth homer of the postseason, a two-run blast in the eighth inning that turned Citizens Bank Park into a madhouse, and the $330m slugger powered the Philadelphia Phillies past the San Diego Padres 4-3 on Sunday and into the World Series for the first the time since 2009.
Rhys Hoskins also hit a two-run homer to spark Philadelphia’s improbable run to the National League pennant and a shot at their first World Series championship since 2008.
The Phillies will play the Houston Astros, who came from 3-0 behind to beat the New Yankees 6-5 to seal the ALCS 4-0 later on Sunday night. The Astros took advantage of a costly error by Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres to produce the go-ahead rally in the seventh inning.
The Astros will be heavy favorites to take the title – they have yet to lose a game in this season’s playoffs after sweeping the Seattle Mariners in the previous round. The teams met each other at the end of the regular season, with the Astros winning the three-game series 2-1. They will next meet on Friday in Houston for Game 1 of the World Series.
Harper has made hitting home runs look easy this postseason and he delivered with easily the biggest hit in his four-year Phillies’ career.
JT Realmuto began the inning with a single off reliever Robert Suarez and Harper lined a 2-2, 98 mph sinker into the left field seats as another sellout crowd of 45,485 fans shook the stadium.
“I knew he was going to come with his heater,” the two-time NL MVP said during a TV interview. “Just tried to take the best swing I could and was able to do damage with it.”
The lefty-swinging Harper connected off a righty — the Padres had left-handed closer Josh Hader warming in the bullpen, but didn’t bring him in.
Phillies reliever David Robertson was pulled after a pair of one-out walks in the ninth. Ranger Suárez made his first relief appearance of the season and retired Trent Grisham on a bunt and got Austin Nola – brother of Phils ace Aaron Nola – on a routine fly to end it for a huge save.
Harper, who turned 30 last week, is batting 439 (18-for-41) with six doubles, five homers, 11 RBI and 10 runs scored over 11 postseason games. He has hit in 10 straight and has reached base in 11 straight.
And the can keep those streaks alive when he plays in his first World Series.
“To a certain degree, it’s getting overlooked because of who he is and the star that he is,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said before the game. “He’s a guy that’s a big star that’s delivered. Can’t say enough about that.”
Philadelphia finished third in the NL East at 87-75, a full 14 games behind the 101-win Braves this season, and were the last club in the majors to make the 12-team playoff field. After a 2-0 sweep of NL Central champion St Louis in MLB’s newly created wild-card round, the Phillies needed only four games to knock out Atlanta, the defending World Series champs.