PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Look at Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola and the rest of these Phillies, out here making Philly — hey, remember the days when Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard made postseason play the norm? — a baseball city again.
Only the rain slowed the Phillies on Tuesday night as they took an eight-game winning streak into the start of a three-game series against the reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
That’s right, for fans who might remember Philadelphia as a team slumbering around .500 most of the season, big baseball series have returned: The Phillies, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2011, lead the NL East.
Their scoreless game against the Dodgers was in a rain delay in the bottom of the fourth.
The winning streak coming off Sunday’s retired jersey ceremony for the late Roy Halladay — which returned so many stars from their 2007-2011 postseason heyday — created a buzz in Philly and helped fill the stands a bit more than usual on Tuesday night.
“You saw the passion of the fans and how excited they get,” manager Joe Girardi said hours before a rain delay. “It was a great weekend. With everything, the ceremonies that we had, the importance of the series, the way we played, those are the things you look forward to.”
Max Scherzer vs. Nola gave the game some juice.
Boy, did they deliver.
Nola fanned Trea Turner to start the game, then Max Muncy and Will Smith. He relied on his breaking stuff and struck out the side again in the third for seven strikeouts — all swinging — over the first three innings.
Scherzer, who was still in DC when he recently feuded with Girardi over sticky stuff, was just as sharp. He struck out Harper, a surging MVP candidate, in the fourth for his sixth strikeout. Jean Segura singled and then the rain fell, in a hurry.
There was not a sprinkle in the sky one second and the floodgates opened the next, sending the teams scurrying off the field and the grounds crew going on it at an Allyson Felix pace with the tarp.
Harper, the cornerstone right fielder, said Sunday the formula was simple for their rise to first.
“Good baseball,” he said. “We’re just ready to play every day. Not that we weren’t before. But it’s time to go. It’s time to win ballgames and play well.”
Consider, on Aug. 1, the Phillies were in third place and 4½ games behind the Mets for first place in the NL East. The eight-game streak, including a weekend sweep over New York, put the Phillies alone in first in the division and two games up on Atlanta.
The winning streak is the longest since they won nine straight from July 29 – Aug. 6, 2011. The Phillies lead the majors lead the majors with 185 runs scored since July 1 and have hit the most home runs in that span with 54, entering Tuesday.
Over the last eight games, Harper is 11 for 30 (.367) with 11 runs, five doubles, four homers, seven RBIs and a 1.390 OPS.
“We’ve got a while to go, though,” he said. “We’ve got to stay with it, stay locked in, keep doing the things we’re doing the right way.”
Keep it up, and that baseball bandwagon filling up in Philly just may roll into October.