MLB Wild Card: Phillies beat Braves behind Nick Castellanos, David Robertson

ATLANTA – Nick Castellanos raised his right arm in victory and gave it a little pump as he rounded first base. In the dugout, his teammates went a little nuts.

It’s been a difficult first season in Philadelphia for the big free-agent addition, but all the grind and stress seemed to melt away with one swing under the warm Georgia sun on Wednesday afternoon.

Castellanos’ first homer in more than a month, a tying, two-run shot to center with two outs in the top of the eighth, lifted the Phillies and Zack Wheeler to a huge 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Castellanos’ ninth homer was his first of the season since June 30 in 113 plate appearances.

His reaction as he rounded the bases told how cathartic it was for him.

The reaction in the dugout showed how much support his teammates have for him.

“It was electric (in the dugout) because everyone was pulling for him,” manager Rob Thomson said. “They know what he’s been through and they know he cares so they care about him. It was really neat.”

Wheeler was brilliant. He pitched seven innings and allowed just one run on an error slider to Orlando Arcia with two outs in the fifth. The righty walked none and struck out seven but was looking for no run support until the Phillies rallied for three in the top of the eighth.

Wheeler was on the dugout steps when Castellanos took Collin McHugh deep.

“Nick is a really good hitter,” Wheeler said. “He’s been struggling a little bit, but I think people exaggerate it more than it is. He’s been a pretty solid hitter for us if you really look at him. It was nice to see him hit a home run in a big spot .”

Castellanos’ biggest hit as a Phillie won’t happen if JT Realmuto doesn’t drop a ball that would have been an inning-ending double play. Rhys Hoskins walked with one out against Charlie Morton and Alec Bohm singled against McHugh before Realmuto won the ball. First, he was called out. The Phillies won the challenge.

“What a drama,” said Thomas. “Rhys gets it. Bohmer gets the win. JT hits him to keep the inning going and gives Casty a chance to hit a home run. That was a big hit for him.”

Taking the lead, Thomson pulled all the right strings in the bullpen to pull it off. Seranthony Dominguez got two outs in the eighth. Jose Alvarado retired a dangerous Matt Olson to end the inning. Then the newly acquired David Robertson came in, still wearing the blue Chicago Cubs spikes, and put down the save.

Robertson was with the Phillies in 2019 and 2020 but pitched in just seven games after coming home on a two-year, $23 million free agent contract and blowing out his right elbow. At 37, after surgery and intense rehab, he’s back and finally has his first save as a Phillie.

When asked how that felt, Robertson said, “It was definitely better than blowing it, if you want the truth. I had a lot of hard rides when I was here last time and it felt pretty good.” he nails it for the team. he played hard, fought back and got a great win today.”

The Phillies finished their road trip at 5-1. They return home Thursday night with new faces (Noah Syndergaard will perform) and a 56-48 record. They control the third and final wild card spot in the NL.

No Phillie comes home feeling better than Castellanos, who had 11 hits and five RBIs on the trip.

“I think I’m just gradually trying to do less and less and be happy with a base hit to right field,” he said of his hot streak. “I think that’s a good starting point for me. Gradually leave the expectation and go back and let the game come to you.”

And as for that emotional trip around the bases and the greeting he received from his teammates in the dugout…

“I was very happy,” said Castellanos. “For me personally, of course, it felt great, but more importantly, the Phillies needed it. We have great people on this team, and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for .”

Well, that and a productive trade deadline and a shot to make the playoffs.

“It sends a message that winning is expected here,” Castellanos said of the deadline additions. “I’ve been part of deadlines where people are leaving the clubhouse instead of adding them. It feels good when you have established guys coming in.

“With the additions we made plus (Jean Segura and Bryce Harper) coming back, this was the best deadline we could have asked for.”

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