Phillies Pound Hendricks, Cubs 17-8

Sports

Philadelphia Phillies’ Didi Gregorius hits a two-run single against Chicago Cubs pitcher Manuel Rodriguez during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bryce Harper keeps earning those “MVP!” chants in Philly.

Harper doubled to start a seven-run, game-tying rally in the fourth inning, drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth and sealed the Philadelphia Phillies’ 17-8 win over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night with a three-run home run in the seventh.

Harper’s NL MVP candidacy — Philly fans call him MV3 — is thriving.

Also alive, improbably, given the start in this one, is Philadelphia’s playoff push.

The Phillies are three games behind first-place Atlanta — rained out Thursday — in the NL East with 16 games left this season, and 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the second wild card. San Diego and Cincinnati also lead Philadelphia in the wild-card chase.

With Harper as hot as can be, can the Phillies be counted out yet?

Each team scored seven runs in an inning, the Cubs taking a 7-0 lead in the third against a pair of relievers in a bullpen game that seemed headed toward a loss that would crush Philadelphia’s season.

Enter Harper.

Year three of his $330 million, 13-year deal has been his best one yet.

The Phillies don’t want to waste it.

“I don’t ever think about it like we don’t want to waste someone’s season,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’re all involved in this, right? And the game is always, to me, about our team. But he’s a big reason why we’ve hung around, just because of the season that he’s had and the last 2 1/2 months, whatever he’s done. It’s been incredible to watch.”

Add this one to the highlight reel.

Harper doubled and scored in the fourth, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. He entered the game batting .400 (30 for 75) with eight doubles, nine homers, 21 RBIs, 18 runs and a 1.356 OPS over his last 20 games.

Harper hit again in the fourth against 14-game winner Kyle Hendricks — Andrew McCutchen’s two-RBI double made it 7-5 — and walked to load the bases with two outs in his second at-bat of the inning.

J.T. Realmuto, who hit the tying solo homer in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s 6-5 win, delivered again with a two-run single up the middle off Michael Rucker that tied it at 7.

The shaky bullpen pitched three scoreless innings, giving Harper more time to come through in the clutch.

Harper lined an RBI double the other way to left off Manuel Rodriguez (3-3) with one out in the sixth for an 8-7 lead. Didi Gregorius sliced a single to about the same spot as Harper’s hit and drove in two, and the Phillies led 10-7.

Then came the finale.

Harper smashed his 33rd homer of the season into the second deck in the seventh, a three-run shot off Rex Brothers for 15-8 lead. The Phillie Phanatic danced on the dugout and pumped his furry green arms in the air as fans chanted “MVP!”

Harper won the 2015 NL MVP with a Washington Nationals team that missed the playoffs. He might not miss out on either by the end of the season.

Hector Neris (3-6) got the win in two innings of relief.

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