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Bryce Harper is leading the red-hot Phillies to the NLCS

Bryce Harper stepped up to the plate Saturday afternoon in the sixth inning. He was 0-3 on the day, he had struck out twice and popped up to center field. Not in the field, where he no longer appears because he is the Philadelphia Phillies’ designated hitter.

The Phillies fans were chanting, “MVP! MVP! MVP!”

That is Harper’s status in this ravenous sports town. He is the most valuable player and most prominent character on a Phillies team that, in the span of a little more than a week, has morphed into a postseason problem for anyone it comes up against.

Harper’s contributions in the clincher were a run-scoring single in that sixth-inning at-bat, then an opposite-field, solo homer in the eighth that finished the scoring.

Bryce Harper’s eighth-inning solo homer was the exclamation point on Saturday’s Game 4 win for the Phillies. Photo courtsey of Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Harper’s enormous talent will now be on display deeper than it ever has been in October, in the National League Championship Series.

The Phillies pounded the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves out of the postseason with an 8-3 victory in Game 4 of this division series Saturday,

“Being able to come into a town that I feel like I’m with them, I feel like they’re with us each day,” Harper said. “I feel like I’m hand-in-hand with them and vice versa.

When you want to play hard, when you want to be in a city, when you want to be a factor in a city, that’s all they want to see. They just want you to play hard. That’s it. They want you to go out there and bust your ass each day. No excuses, good or bad. They don’t care. They just want you to keep doing it.”

Harper’s contributions thus far in the postseason, a two-game, first-round sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals and the four games of this division series, are unmatched: a .435 batting average, a .480 on-base percentage and a .957 slugging percentage (good for an insane 1.437 on-base-plus-slugging percentage) with three doubles, three homers and six RBI.

All of this came after he was limited to 99 games in the regular season because of a broken thumb. In 35 games after he returned from a two-month absence, he hit .227 with a .676 OPS and just three homers. He wasn’t who he normally is. He is now.

“He can take over series,” said Kevin Long, Harper’s hitting coach for his final season in Washington who’s in his first year with the Phillies now. “He’s right back to where he was.”Where he was: the reigning NL MVP. Where can he go this October? Wherever he wants.

There’s a reason why he’s been the MVP twice. And we saw it on display in full force in this series.” “He’s a better hitter now,” Long said. “When I had him in Washington, he was too up and down. And now he’s way more consistent.”

Harper’s family enjoyed the moment Saturday. Photo courtsey of Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Sky’s the limit for Bryce Harper and the red-hot Phillies. Harper is showing the baseball world that he is one of the elite hitters in the MLB.

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Tony Ghaul

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