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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — All-Star relief pitcher Matt Strahm got two-time MVP Shohei Ohtani hit an 83-mile-per-hour slider for strike three in the seventh inning, nearly causing the Dodger batter to lose his helmet and leave the tying runs on base. It was the decisive out that preserved Philadelphia's lead and helped the Phillies win again. without Bryce Harper4:3 against Los Angeles on Wednesday evening.

“He's one of the greatest to ever pick up a bat,” Strahm said. “That's cool.”

Strahm, 32, is known in Philly for his straggly, shoulder-length hair and passion for baseball cards, as well as for his crucial outs from the bullpen – the kind of outs that earned him his first All-Star berth after nine major league seasons.

Left-hander Strahm inherited runners at the corners in the seventh inning and the Phillies were holding a 4-2 lead when sensational left-hander Ohtani was brought in to nearly 42,000 boos in front of another sold-out crowd in South Philly – “like a playoff game,” manager Rob Thomson said – and the game was on the line.

Strahm threw a slider as part of two quick strikes and then a ball, a 1-2 count that had fans standing and cheering at a nationally televised game.

He got Ohtani – the Dodgers' $700 million global phenom – and a scene ensued among the fans that could have come straight out of the crazy October atmosphere of Philadelphia.

“Of course you know who is in the box,” said Strahm. “The energy of these fans is once again unmatched.”

When it was another batter's turn, Strahm had no time to exhale and savor the moment. He knocked out Teoscar Hernández with a fly ball, escaped the pinch, and led the Phillies to their 60th win of the season.

The Phillies won the first two games of the three-game series in a duel between two NL leaders. At 60-32, only the 1976 team (in 88 games) reached that mark faster in a season in franchise history.

Kyle Schwarber hit his eighth leadoff home run of the season, helping to make up for Harper's absence.

The Phillies beat Ohtani and the NL West leaders again without Harper, who this time was out with a contused left hand. Harper had missed the last nine games with a strained left hamstring until returning in Tuesday's 10-1 win. Harper, a two-time NL MVP, injured himself in an unspecified location, though he clearly grabbed his hand and hunched over in pain on a Miguel Rojas chopper in the second inning.

After an All-Star batter went down, an All-Star relief pitcher in Stram saved the Phillies.

The Dodgers made it 4-3 in the eighth inning. Jeff Hoffman — one of seven Phillies selected for the NL All-Star team — threw a scoreless ninth inning for his ninth save.

“We know we can compete with these guys and they know we can compete with them,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Unfortunately, we didn't win two games. I still think we're a pretty good ball club.”

Key players Harper, catcher JT Realmuto (out until after the All-Star break), outfielder Brandon Marsh and Schwarber were all on the Phillies' injured list this season. All-Star pitcher Zack Wheeler fights stiffness.

But nothing could really stop the Phillies, who were determined to win the World Series despite failing to do so in the last two seasons – losing in Houston in 2022 and to Arizona in the NL Championship Series in 2023.

If the Phillies are looking for that final push before the All-Star break to reach 70 wins at franchise-record pace, a three-game weekend series against the Oakland A's could help them do that.

Cristopher Sánchez (7-4) had five strikeouts and allowed two runs in six innings for the Phillies on another muggy night in Philly. He gave up a 2-0 lead and the Dodgers tied it on Ohtani's RBI single in the fifth inning.

Sánchez has an ERA of 1.50 (11 earned runs in 66 innings) in his 10 home games this season.

Whit Merrifield — who led the AL with 10 triples in 2019 but hadn't hit one since 2022 — opened the fifth with a lame fly to center that Andy Pages lost in the spotlight. Merrifield ran around first base and grounded to third base for his 27th career triple. After Garrett Stubbs and Schwarber failed to hit the ball out of the infield, Merrifield scored on a grounder from Trea Turner. Turner made it to third base on All-Star Alec Bohm's 32nd double, the NL's best player, and scored on an infield single from Bryson Stott for a 4-2 lead.

Schwarber's shot against Gavin Stone (9-3) was his 39th career home run. Stone allowed four runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.

NEXT

The Dodgers send RHP Landon Knack (1-2, 2.86 ERA) to the mound against Philadelphia RHP Aaron Nola (10-4, 3.48).

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