Tuesday’s opening game of their NL Division Series saw the Philadelphia Phillies defeat the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves 7-6 thanks to Nick Castellanos’ three runs scored and probable game-saving catch in the ninth inning.
The Phillies have won their first three games in a row to start these playoffs, so they don’t exactly appear to be a team making its first postseason appearance since 2011. They won against the group that ended 14 games ahead of them in the NL East after sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card round.
It wasn’t simple. The Braves were within a run when Matt Olson smacked a three-run home run off Zach Eflin in the ninth inning.
But Castellanos, who had an outstanding day with both his glove and bat, made a key play by making a sliding catch in right field to put an end to the rally. Castellanos is frequently criticized for his poor defense.
The Phillies, who had a 7-1 lead by the top of the fifth inning and held it against a Braves lineup that had several opportunities to tie the game, also received two RBIs from Alec Bohm.
Travis d’Arnaud homered and scored the other three runs for Atlanta, but now the team that finished the regular season with 101 victories and beat the New York Mets in a close NL East battle finds itself in a best-of-five situation.
Atlanta will host Game 2 on Wednesday afternoon before the series moves to Philadelphia.
Before many spectators had taken their seats, the Phillies had already jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to Castellanos’ run-scoring single in the first and his two-run single in the fourth.
Castellanos has played in seven postseason games and was hitting just.148 (4 for 27). He went 3 for 5 and had almost as many hits in this game.
The Phillies’ day may have been rescued by the sliding catch on William Contreras’ line drive, as Max Fried, whose previous postseason outing resulted in six shutout innings in a World Series-clinching victory against the Astros, was unable to complete the fourth inning against the Phillies.
The Braves’ ace took a beating from eight hits and six runs, two of which were unearned but were caused by Fried’s throwing error.
The Phillies, on the other hand, have been playing like playoff-tested veterans despite the National League’s longest postseason drought at 11 years.
Fried routinely removed the game’s first two batters, but the Phillies unexpectedly put together a string of four straight singles, all to the opposite field, to take a 2-0 lead.
Castellanos and Bohm’s last two hits both resulted in runs being scored.
D’Arnaud cut the deficit in half to start the second inning with a home run far into the left-field seats, but 22-year-old starter Ranger Suárez and the Phillies were unfazed.
Following J.T. Realmuto reaching on Fried’s misdirected throw in the third, Philadelphia quickly recovered and added two more runs.
With a sacrifice fly, Bohm scored again, and Jean Segura followed with a single to center with two outs.
Fried was struck out by the Phillies in the fourth, leaving the field with runners on second and third. After striking out Realmuto, Jesse Chavez had a chance to get out of the jam, but Castellanos delivered again with a single to left that drove in two more runs for a 6-1 advantage.
Suárez only lasted 3 1/3 innings, but he made a few key pitches to prevent the Braves from mounting a comeback.
Suarez managed to get away on Contreras’ inning-ending double play in the first inning after walking two people to load the bases.
In the third, Atlanta loaded the bases once more, but d’Arnaud struck out on a high fastball that was outside of the strike zone.
In the fourth, the Braves added two more runners. This time, the threat was neutralized when Dansby Swanson whiffed on an Andrew Bellatti 3-2 pitch, giving Bellatti the victory.
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