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John Means struck out six at bat and thwarted Bryce Harper and a Philadelphia Phillies team in an eleventh-hour playoff push to lead the Baltimore Orioles to a 2-0 victory on Monday night.

Losers of two games in a row, the Phillies came two games behind Atlanta in the eastern NL. The Braves opened a four-game series in Arizona late Monday night against the Diamondbacks who lost 101. The Phillies were 3½ games behind St. Louis for the second wild card. Cincinnati also leads Philadelphia in the wildcard race.

The Phillies opened a seven-game homestand with three against the Orioles at 102 losses and four more against a Pittsburgh Pirates approaching 100 losses.

The Phillies desperately needed to rack up wins against two tug-of-war teams if they were to make next week’s three games in Atlanta have any playoff implications.

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Here’s what they got instead: An attack led by Harper, an NL MVP candidate, handcuffed by Means, who threw a four-hit bullet into the seventh. Means, who threw a hit on May 5, even doubled in the seventh for his first career extra-base hit.

Means (6-7) gave way to right-hander Cole Sulser with runners in the corners, and he struck out Freddy Galvis on a flyball to the right to finish seventh.

Harper, who led the MLB with 1.052 OPS, walked in the first inning, was struck out as he swayed in the fourth and sixth innings against Means. Harper represented the tied point, but flew to end the game the night before in a 4-2 loss to the Mets.

The outfielder was tasked with leading the Phillies to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 without much help around him. Tyler Wells put Harper on a 401-foot flyball for a cross in the ninth, then struck out JT Realmuto and Andrew McCutchen for his third save.

The Phillies were booed off the field.

Ranger Suarez (6-5) gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Pedro Severino and Ryan McKenna in the first inning before settling into a game he needed to win. He put out five strikes and his ERA rose to 1.60.

The Phillies are in the playoff race, although years of poor baseball and the Eagles’ start to the season have sapped the city’s enthusiasm for the September running. The team announced 21,440 fans – although far fewer than what seemed available.

Losing to the Orioles won’t put a spark in the city. Or fans in the seats.

Manager Joe Girardi said ahead of the game that pennant races are always fun.

This one, however, hurts.

“When you think about all the work you’ve done to get to this point, to have the opportunity to make the playoffs, to be relevant in your division,” it’s fun, said Girardi. “It really starts the day after last year’s season. You start planning. You start working. The players start doing things. That’s what it is. done in november and december, january and february, that’s what that’s all. We’re lucky to be in this position. So we have to take advantage of it. “

Once again, the Phillies couldn’t take the lead against one of baseball’s worst teams. Arizona swept the Phillies in a three-game game in mid-August and the Under 0.500 Rockies won three of four games in Philly earlier this month.

OUT OF OFFICE

Orioles CF Cedric Mullins did not start. He has 29 home runs and 30 stolen goals. He came in for defense on a double change in the ninth.

FOLLOWING

The Orioles and Phillies start each of the reliever box games with openers to be determined.

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