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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, September 22, 2019 1:00 am

Philadelphia 9 Cleveland 4

Harper bomb keeps Phillies alive

TOM WITHERS | Associated Press

CLEVELAND – Bryce Harper connected for a three-run homer that Philadelphia desperately needed and the Phillies avoided sliding any deeper in the NL wild-card standings with a 9-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.

Brad Miller homered twice as the Phillies stayed within five games of Milwaukee for the second wild-card spot.

But it was Harper's 33rd homer in the fifth inning off left-hander Oliver Pérez (2-4) – a shot the Ohio State football fan celebrated by flashing an “O-H” as he crossed home plate – that put the Phillies ahead and prevented them from fading further from the postseason picture.

Jay Bruce also homered in Philadelphia's four-run rally in the fifth and Jason Vargas (7-8) shook off a rough start to finally get his first win in his 10th outing for the Phillies.

Rookie Oscar Mercado hit a two-run homer for the Indians, who fell one game behind Tampa Bay for the AL's No. 2 wild-card berth. The Rays beat Boston 5-4 in 11 innings.

After Indians rookie starter Zach Plesac gave up a pair of singles, manager Terry Francona didn't want to take any chances with Harper coming up and brought in Perez.

But this time, Harper was locked in. He fouled off five pitches – two of them with two strikes – before pounding Perez's 79 mph slider deep into the right-field seats to put the Phillies up 5-4.