Philadelphia Phillies

Nationals get payback on Bryce Harper and send Phillies packing

Bryce Harper and the Phillies were eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday — against his former team, the Nationals.

This isn’t the way Bryce Harper envisioned his first year in a Phillies uniform ending.

Back at Nationals Park on Tuesday afternoon, the place he called home for the first seven years of his career, Harper and the Phillies were officially eliminated from playoff contention against the very team he spurned. The Nationals beat the Phillies 4-1, at the same time creeping closer to securing their own playoff berth.

Harper turned down a contract extension with the Nationals in order to sign a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies back in March. The deal fulfilled the Phillies’ pledge to spend “stupid money” in order to build a winner. Along with Harper came shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto, moves that had the Phillies pegged as preseason World Series favorites by many.

It didn’t work, and the Phillies are now faced with an offseason of wondering where it all went wrong. Leading the NL East as late as June 11 and with the second-best record in the National League at the time, the Phillies are seven games under .500 since then, with a worse record than the Cincinnati Reds. They entered September 3.5 games back from a playoff spot but have now gone 10-12 in the month to fall seven games out — with just six remaining.

Harper had his moments this season — a homer in his first game back in Washington on April 2, a walk-off grand slam against the Cubs in August — and has already set a career-high with 108 RBI. But he also ranks 43rd in the Majors in OPS and is hitting just .257. In 16 games against the Nationals, he hit .255 with two home runs, and none in the last 12 games.

The Nationals, meanwhile, found their own stars to take Harper’s place. Anthony Rendon, a leading MVP candidate, and Juan Soto have made fans in the nation’s capital forget all about their former superstar. Rendon leads the NL with 124 RBI and is third in average and OPS, behind only Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger. Fittingly, it was Rendon who drove in the go-ahead run on Tuesday in the game that put an end to the Phillies’ hopes.

The Phillies went quietly on Tuesday. After scoring the opening run in the first inning, they didn’t manage a baserunner in the game’s last five innings as Nationals relievers combined to throw perfect ball from the fifth inning on. Harper went 1-4, a first-inning single all he could muster in the last meaningful game he’ll play in 2019. As the Nationals celebrated on the field, he quickly donned his cap — backward, of course — and headed to the clubhouse. The Nationals have a chance to clinch a playoff spot in the second game of the doubleheader on Tuesday night.

His first season in Philadelphia ended on a sour note, but Harper still has 12 more to fulfill his promise to bring a title to the city.

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