ATLANTA — Nick Castellanos wasn’t, for most of the 2022 regular season, what the Phillies had envisioned when they signed him in the offseason to a $100 million contact. His time in Philadelphia wasn’t what he had hoped for, either.
But Tuesday, in the biggest game yet of the first season of their five-year entanglement?
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Castellanos said. “Baseball is really, really fun right now.”
Plenty of fans back in Philadelphia would agree.
Castellanos was the star of Tuesday’s 7-6 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. He supplied three hits, three RBIs and a run scored. He contributed to small-ball rallies that posted runs in four of the first five innings, staking the Phillies to a 7-1 lead before the real fun began.
And Castellanos provided the momentum-changing play in the ninth, diving to snag a William Contreras liner sinking like a stone in right field. Had he missed it, the Braves would’ve brought the go-ahead run to the plate with a runner on third base, and this was after Matt Olson’s three-run homer to center had narrowed the gap to 7-6.
Instead, the grab was the second out, allowing Zach Eflin to induce a grounder to short from Travis d’Arnaud to end it.
“I saw him swing and I saw him hit it,” Castellanos said. “And it was just going toward me and I ran and caught it as best I could. And it worked out. … They obviously had a big point in the game right there with (Olson) putting them within one. So to be able to catch that and have two outs and nobody on base was huge.”
“You feel the momentum right there,” Rhys Hoskins said. “Obviously they had it after the homer. To get the next guy out is huge for Ef, but just huge for the rest of us.”
Castellanos’ three-hit, three-RBI day was his first in a Phillies uniform. It led an offense that stitched together five doubles, seven singles and two sacrifice bunts to break through against Max Fried and the NL East champions.
It started early. The Phillies, who had gone 0-for-16 with two outs against the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Series, strung together four straight two-out singles in the top of the first. J.T. Realmuto started it with a two-strike base knock before Bryce Harper scalded one to center. Castellanos and Alec Bohm, the latter the opposite way on an 0-2 count, drove home runs to make it 2-0.
An error by Fried opened the door in the third, allowing Realmuto to reach. A Harper sacrifice was followed by Castellanos doubling off the wall in right to put runners on second and third. Bohm cashed in by lofting a sac fly to center, then Jean Segura laced a single up the middle that scored Castellanos, whose tremendous hand slide slipped in inches before the throw of Michael Harris II.
They kept piling on, brandishing the one-through-nine depth that had eluded them most of the season. In the fourth, an Edmundo Sosa walk and Hoskins double put two in scoring position. Castellanos greeted reliever Jesse Chavez with a two-run single to make it 6-1. A leadoff double by Segura in the sixth was followed by a sacrifice bunt and a sac fly by Sosa for a 7-1 edge.
“I’d say (it’s) taking what’s there,” Castellanos said. “(Hitting coach) Kevin Long said before the postseason started to just pass the baton. And sometimes power-hitting teams can get in trouble when they’re looking to hit the long ball if the game is not giving them the opportunity to hit the long ball. And I think that first inning, like in the ninth inning in St. Louis (in Game 1), it’s just a really good job of taking what the game gives you.”
They would need every bit of the offense. Starting pitcher Ranger Suarez battled but, thanks in large part to five walks, only made it through 3.1 innings. Even that required 86 pitches and him escaping a pair of bases-loaded jams.
In the first, he got Contreras to roll into a double play. In the third, it was d’Arnaud chasing a fastball out of the zone. D’Arnaud had gotten the Braves on the board in the second by driving a Suarez offering 430 feet and out to left center.
The explosion of emotion from the normally reserved Suarez as he left the mound after the third was telling.
Andrew Bellatti quelled a two-on threat in the fourth. Connor Brogdon pitched into difficulty in the fifth, serving up a d’Arnaud two-run double down the line in left. But Brad Hand entered to get a fly out and a strikeout to avoid additional damage.
That started a run of 11 straight batters retired by Phillies relievers. Seranthony Dominguez needed 18 pitches to mow down the top six in the Braves order in the sixth and seventh innings. Jose Alvarado pitched a clean eight.
Eflin ran into trouble in the ninth, with Acuna Jr. (3-for-4) reaching on an infield single and Dansby Swanson, who had struck out four times, singling off the wall in right. Olson then deposited a pitch 414 feet over the fence in center.
But Eflin steeled himself and, with a little help from Castellanos, got the Phillies across the finish line to strike first in the series.
“Anytime that I do anything to help the team that wins, to be able to now get to where as a team we want to get to, the postseason, we’re in a great spot,” Castellanos said. “It’s kind of just a fresh start, a clean slate, so to speak. And obviously these games are really intense.”
Source: Berkshire mont
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