WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper is just 24 years old and already it seems as if he's been killing the Phillies forever.
He did it again Sunday with a two-run homer in the third inning and a spirit-crushing three-run shot in the bottom of the ninth.
Harper's second homer of the day came with two outs in the ninth on a full-count fastball from new Phillies closer Joaquin Benoit. It turned a hard-fought, one-run Phillies' lead into a deflating 6-4 loss (see Instant Replay).
Harper's bomb hadn't even landed when Benoit started walking off the mound. He's 39 years old and has pitched in 718 big-league games. He knows when he gives up a walk-off shot.
"Fastball count. I threw him a fastball. He hit it out," said Benoit, who took over as closer after Jeanmar Gomez blew a ninth-inning lead against these same Nationals last weekend in Philadelphia.
Previously in his career, Benoit had held Harper hitless with a strikeout in five at-bats.
"I believe every hitter is dangerous," Benoit said. "If you throw a pitch they can handle they will do damage. I've had some success against him, but I made a mistake and he made me pay. No excuses."
The Phillies trailed 3-1 after Harper's two-run homer in the third. The score stayed that way most of the day until the Phillies rallied for two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to take a 4-3 lead.
Benoit got the first out in the bottom of the ninth but walked the next batter then allowed a single. He retired dangerous Anthony Rendon before Harper came to the plate. Benoit went at Harper with fastballs and Harper fouled off the first two to fall behind, 0-2, but Benoit could not put him away.
"I was trying to battle, took two good swings right there 0-0 and 0-1," Harper said. "You never want to get behind on a guy like that, but I battled the best I could and got into a pretty good count right there and got a good pitch to hit."
Harper admitted that he thought Benoit might throw a changeup with a full count. Benoit threw a 96 mph fastball and Harper quickly adjusted.
"I don't like to double-guess myself," Benoit said. "I take full responsibility. I wanted to throw a fastball. He hit it out."
Harper's game-winning homer to dead center was his fourth of the season and third in six games against the Phillies in 2017. In 86 career games against the Phillies, he has 18 home runs and 49 RBIs.
At his age, he could torture the Phillies into the 2030s.
Unless, of course, the Phillies put him in red pinstripes when he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season. Early estimates have put a $400 million price tag on Harper. The Phillies have the money and will spend on a big bat. Time will tell if it's Harper that they will spend on. For now, he just kills the Phillies.
"He's a tough out," Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff said. "He fouls off good pitches and he's ready for a mistake. That's all you can ask for in a hitter -- just a guy who is going to go up and take professional at bats. You have to be careful with him."
Harper's first homer came against Eickhoff on a first-pitch slider in the third inning. Eickhoff got the first two outs of the inning then had Rendon down 0-2 in the count, but couldn't put him away. Rendon reached on an infield hit. The play was reviewed and after a 100-second delay, Eickhoff missed his spot with the slider that Harper hit out.
"The delay didn't hurt me," Eickhoff said. "I missed my location by inches."
Eickhoff allowed back-to-back doubles in the first inning as he let a 1-0 lead get away. The Phils got that lead on a leadoff homer by Cesar Hernandez against Gio Gonzalez. The Phils did not score again until the eighth when they got hits from Hernandez, Daniel Nava and Tommy Joseph in tying the game. Washington left fielder Jayson Werth also made a key error in that frame.
The Phils turned a leadoff double by Aaron Altherr into the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth and were looking at a sweet win and two-out-of-three in the series before Harper blasted Benoit in the ninth.
"We're competing and playing hard," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Pitching kept us in the game. You hold a team to three runs like we did most of the game, you have a chance of winning some of those games.
"It's always demoralizing when you blow a lead especially when you come from behind. That's always disheartening."
It gets no easier now for the Phillies. The next three games are in New York against the Mets. The Phils are 12-29 against the Mets since the start of the 2015 season.