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The Nick Castellanos Game: Phillies 7, Braves 6

A little nervy at the end, but the Phillies get a huge win

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This game was hugely important for the Phillies.

Bigly, if you will.

With their two aces getting set to throw games two and three, many were already chalking them up as wins for the Phillies. Baseball being baseball, the team cannot count on that happening and needed to come out hot against a Braves team that rightfully had a claim to being able to upset the vaunted Dodgers behemoth. They were going to start Ranger Suarez, so they would give themselves a solid chances should they be able to scrap across some runs against Max Fried.

Scrape is what they did.

Starting the first inning with two quick outs, the Phillies started getting some hits. Four straight singles from their third through sixth hitters and suddenly, they had a 2-0 lead, RBIs coming from Nick Castellanos and Alec Bohm.

With Suarez on the mound, it became imperative that he shut down the Braves’ lineup, something he would struggle with all day. Ronald Acuna doubled to start the inning, then went to third when Suarez issued back to back one out walks to load the bases. That brought William Contreras up, the stadium rocking in anticipation. Suarez would go full count before unleashing a curveball that Contreras hit to Edmundo Sosa at shortstop, who stepped on second, threw to first and completed the double play.

That would be big as it ended an important opportunity to get right back in the game that the Braves would regret. They got a run in the second on a home run by Travis d’Arnaud, but it was a solo home run, the Phillies still holding a 2-1 lead.

In the third, they got two more when J.T. Realmuto reached on a rare fielding error from Fried, then going to third on poor baserunning on a double by Castellanos.

A sacrifice fly by Bohm rendered that moot, bringing Jean Segura to the plate. Segura singled to Michael Harris II in center field, scoring Castellanos and making it 4-1, Phillies.

The fourth inning saw two more runs scored when Sosa walked to start the inning, then went to third when Rhys Hoskins flared a double, ending Fried’s day after 3 13 innings. With Jesse Chavez relieving, Realmuto struck out, Harper was intentionally walked to load the bases for Castellanos. It being his day, he singled in two more runs and the Phillies had a 6-1 lead, one they thought was comfortable.

Meanwhile, though the box score showed zeroes for the Braves, they were kept in the game thanks to Suarez not being able to find his command all day. Rob Thomson tried to get him into the fourth, but he just struggled to throw strikes, forcing the bullpen to be called into action in that fourth inning. Andrew Bellatti was the first one up and got out of the inning with no further damage caused, sending it to the fifth.

The fifth saw fundamentals on display. Segura doubled to start the inning, then went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Vierling. Sosa would come up and hit a fly ball to center, deep enough that Harris wouldn’t throw home, allowing Segura to score and making the score now 7-1. Comfortable, right?


Connor Brogdon was next up and also struggled to throw strikes. A one out walk to Matt Olson and a double to Contreras and the Braves were in business. d’Arnaud would step up and double down the left field line, scoring both runners and making it a new ballgame.

A walk to Orlando Arcia and Thomson finally pulled the plug on Brogdon, choosing next to go to Brad Hand. Hand, who hasn’t pitched since September 20, calmly stepped up and got Harris to fly out, then struck out Vaughn Grissom to end the threat. It was a big, big performance by Hand.

The game then settled down a bit, Harper doubling in the sixth being the only threat for a few innings. In the bottom of that frame, Seranthony Dominguez was brought in to face the top of the Braves lineup and went through them like they weren’t even there.

He was so good he went back out for the seventh and dominated that inning as well. It kept the game at 7-3 into the eighth where it was Jose Alvarado’s turn.

He, too, dominated, sending it to the ninth. The Phillies went down rather quietly, meaning it was Zach Eflin’s turn to close.

Which got dicey quick.

Acuna and Swanson both singled to start the inning before Eflin made a wonderful pitch on Austin Riley to get him chasing for the first out. Olson would come up and make the game interesting with one swing.

Sphincters were suddenly tightened and the game was close, 7-6. Contreras came up and hit what looked like a dying quail to right, but Castellanos raced in, slid and made his best defensive play of the season.

That ball gets by him and Contreras might have a triple. As it was, there was two outs and the Braves had one batter left. Eflin induced a groundball, fielded by Sosa, who threw to first to end the game and give the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the series.

There was a lot going on today, but the main takeaway is that the Phillies won and now can throw their best two pitchers in the next two days.