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

ATLANTA — Nick Castellanos triumphantly raised his right hand and gave him a small pump as he rounded first base. In the dugout, his teammates went a little crazy.

It was a tough first season in Philadelphia for the great free-agent acquisition, but all the grind and stress seemed to disappear with one swing under the hot Georgia sun Wednesday afternoon.

Castellanos’ first homer in over a month, a tie-breaking, two-run shot to the middle with two outs in the top of the eighth inning, lifted the Phillies and Zack Wheeler to a massive 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Castellanos’ ninth homer of the season was his first since June 30 and spanned 113 at bats.

His reaction around 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 pulls for him,” said manager Rob Thomson. “They know what he’s been through and they know he cares about him and that’s why they care about him. It was really neat.”

Wheeler was brilliant. He threw seven innings and gave up only one run on a foul to Orlando Arcia with two outs in the fifth. The righthander did not walk and struckout seven, but saw no run support until the Phillies rallied for three in the top of the eighth.

Wheeler was kicking the dugout when Castellanos took Collin McHugh deep.

“Nick is a really good batter,” Wheeler said. “He just struggled a little bit, but I think people are exaggerating it more than it is. He’s a pretty solid batter for us when you really look at it. It was nice to see him get that home run in a big spot.”

Castellanos’ biggest hit as Phillie doesn’t come if JT Realmuto doesn’t complete a potential doubles ball that would have ended the inning. Rhys Hoskins walked with one out to Charlie Morton and Alec Bohm singled to McHugh before Realmuto beat the ball. At first he was called. The Phillies won the challenge.

“What a play,” Thomson said. “Rhys gets it going. Bohmer has the hit. JT busts him to keep the inning going and gives Casty a chance to hit a big home run. That was a big hit for him.”

With the lead, Thomson pulled all the strings in the bullpen to make it to the finish. Seranthony Dominguez retired the side in the eighth. Jose Alvarado eliminated dangerous Matt Olson to end the inning. Then the newly acquired David Robertson, still clad in blue Chicago Cubs spikes, came in and snagged the save.

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

Asked how that felt, Robertson said: “It was definitely better than screwing it up, if you want the truth. I had a lot of tough outings the last time I was here and it felt nice to tie one up for the team We played hard, fought back and got a really nice win today.”

The Phillies finished their road trip 5-1. They return home Thursday night with new faces (Noah Syndergaard will throw) and a 56-48 record. They check the third and last wildcard place in NL.

No one Phillie comes home feeling better than Castellanos, who had 11 hits and five RBI’s during the trip.

“I think it’s me who is gradually trying to do less and less and be happy with a right field single,” he said of his hot streak. “I think that’s a good starting point for me. Just gradually let go of expectations and let the game come back to you.”

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

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

Well, that and a prolific trade deadline and a chance to make the playoffs.

“It sends a message that winning is the expectation here,” Castellanos said of the additions to the deadline. “I’ve been part of deadlines when people leave the clubhouse instead of being added. It feels good when you have regular guys coming in.

“With the additions we’ve made plus (Jean Segura and Bryce Harper) coming back, this was the best deadline we could ask for. We still haven’t clicked all the cylinders and we’re in the playoff battle. It would be interesting must be.” “

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