Harper's 2 HRs help Phils top Nats 12-3, eliminate champs

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Philadelphia Phillies' Bryce Harper, left, celebrates his home run with third base coach Dusty Wathan during the sixth inning of the team's baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington. This was Harper's second homer of the night. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

WASHINGTON – Bryce Harper showed up to Nationals Park, his old stomping grounds, about six hours before Wednesday night’s first pitch to get treatment for a bothersome back, then got a chance to stay off his feet a bit as the designated hitter instead of an outfielder.

All Harper did was smack a pair of homers to help his current club, the Philadelphia Phillies, keep their playoff hopes afloat and eliminate his former club, the Washington Nationals, from playoff contention a year after they won the World Series.

With Harper leading the way, and homers from Andrew McCutchen, Didi Gregorius and Andrew Knapp, too, the Phillies beat the Nationals 12-3 Wednesday night.

“We’re at the part of the season where I need to be on the field," Harper said. “Nobody wants to hear any excuses.”

The Phillies are 28-29 and third in the NL East but right in the thick of the playoff chase with three games to play in this pandemic-truncated season. Philadelphia is a half-game behind Miami for second place in the division, which earns an automatic trip to the postseason.

The loss ended Washington’s modest — albeit season-best — four-game winning streak and left its record at 23-33. San Francisco's victory over Colorado later Wednesday night ruled out a postseason return for the Nationals.

“It's really tough to come back every year," said Nationals slugger Juan Soto, who homered in the ninth, "because everybody is expecting things from you and your team.”

Harper, who left the nation’s capital for a $330 million contract with the team up I-95 before last season, connected off Erick Fedde twice to reach 13 homers for the year — on a 94 mph sinker in the first inning and a 77 mph curveball in the sixth to make it 3-1.