Castellanos Plates 3, Phillies Hold off Braves 7-6 in NLDS

By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Journalist

ATLANTA (AP) — Nick Castellanos made three runs and had a potentially life-saving hold in the ninth inning, lifting the Philadelphia Phillies against defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves 7-6 in Game 1 of their NL Division Series on Tuesday. .

The Phillies have won three straight games to start this playoffs, hardly looking like a team making their first playoff appearance since 2011. They followed up their wildcard sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with a victory over the team that finished 14 games ahead. of them in eastern NL.

It was not easy. Matt Olson hit a three-run homer in the ninth off Zach Eflin to bring the Braves within a run.

But Castellanos, capping off a brilliant day with bat and glove, made a slippery catch into right field to help stifle the comeback — a clutch play from a player often maligned for subpar defense.

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Alec Bohm added two RBIs for the Phillies, who took a 7-1 lead in the top of the fifth and put it against a Braves lineup that wasted many chances to come back in the game.

Travis d’Arnaud homered and drove in Atlanta’s other three runs, but the team that won 101 regular-season games and edged the New York Mets in a thrilling NL East run suddenly finds himself in a difficult situation.

Game 2 takes place Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta before the series moves to Philadelphia.

Castellanos singled in the first – the Phillies took a 2-0 lead before many fans settled into their seats for the start of the lunch hour – and added a two-run single in the fourth.

Castellanos hit .148 (4 for 27) in seven postseason games. He had almost as many hits in this one, going 3 for 5.

And that slippery take on William Contreras’ understudy might have saved the day for the Phillies,

Max Fried, whose last playoff start produced six shutout innings in a decisive World Series win over the Astros, failed to make it past the fourth against the Phillies.

The Braves ace was roughed up for eight hits and six runs – two of which were unearned, but that was because of a throwing error from Fried.

The Phillies, on the other hand, played like hardened veterans in the playoffs, even though their 11-year playoff drought was the longest in the National League.

They started the season miserably, which led to the sacking of manager Joe Girardi in early June.

Rob Thomson guided a remarkable turnaround as caretaker manager, with the Phillies bouncing back to claim the NL’s latest wild card.

Thomson had the interim stripped of his title on Monday, agreeing to a two-year contract to remain at the helm until 2024. The Phillies let him down in his first game as a singles coach.

Fried regularly retired the first two batters of the game, but the Phillies suddenly chained four straight singles — all in the opposite field — for a 2-0 lead.

The last two of them were hits from Castellanos and Bohm.

D’Arnaud cut the deficit in half with a homer deep into the left field seats in the top of the second, but 22-year-old starter Ranger Suárez and the Phillies were unfazed.

Bouncing back straight away in the third, Philadelphia fired on two more runs after JT Realmuto hit Fried’s errant throw.

Bohm landed his second RBI with a sacrifice fly and Jean Segura followed with a two-out single to the center.

The Phillies knocked out Fried at fourth, the southpaw starting with runners at second and third. Jesse Chavez had a chance to escape the jam after pulling Realmuto out, but Castellanos had another two-run hit – a left-handed single that netted two more runs for a 6-1 lead.

Suárez only went 3 1/3 innings but made a few big pitches to keep the Braves from rallying.

After walking two to load the bases in the first, Suarez escaped on double counter play late in the set.

Atlanta charged the bases again in the third, but d’Arnaud hit a high fastball out of the area. Suárez pumped his fist insistently on the way to the dugout.

The Braves put two more runners on board in the fourth. This time the threat was ended with Dansby Swanson sniffing out a 3-2 shot from Andrew Bellatti, who took the win.

Swanson slammed his helmet against the dirt in frustration – which was pretty much indicative of how this day went for the defending champions.

Phillies reliever David Robertson was cut from the NLDS roster after injuring his right calf while jumping to celebrate Bryce Harper’s home run in the wild card win at St. Louis.

Spencer Strider, the Braves’ hard-throwing rookie, made the roster after being sidelined since Sept. 18 with left oblique pain. He was unavailable for Game 1, but could pitch later in the series.

RH Kyle Wright, who led the Majors with 21 wins, faces an inescapable situation when going for the Braves in Game 2. He will be opposed by Phillies RH Zack Wheeler (12-7, 2.87), who grew in suburban Atlanta.

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