ATLANTA — Nick Castellanos raised his right hand in triumph and gave it a little push as he circled first base. In the dugout, his teammates went a little crazy.
It’s been a tough first season in Philadelphia for the big addition of free agents, but all the drudgery and all the stress seemed to suddenly melt away under the hot Georgia sun on Wednesday afternoon.
Castellanos’ first homer in over a month, a game-tying two-run center shot with two outs in the top of the eighth, gave the Phillies and Zack Wheeler a whopping 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves .
Castellanos’ ninth home run of the season was his first since June 30 and a streak of 113 plate appearances.
His reaction around the bases revealed how cathartic it was for him.
The reaction in the dugout showed how supportive his teammates were for him.
“It was electric (in the dugout) because everyone is shooting for him,” manager Rob Thomson said. “They know what he’s been through and they know he cares about him and so they care about him. It was really good.”
Wheeler was brilliant. He pitched seven innings and allowed just one run on an error slider at Orlando Arcia with two outs in the fifth. The right-hander didn’t walk and struck out seven, but wasn’t looking for any run support until the Phillies rallied for three in the top of the eighth.
Wheeler was on the steps of the dugout when Castellanos pushed Collin McHugh deep.
“Nick is a really good hitter,” Wheeler said. “He just struggled a bit, but I think people exaggerate him more than he is. He’s been a pretty solid hitter for us if you really look at it. It was nice to see him land that home run in great position.”
Castellanos’ biggest hit as a Phillie doesn’t happen if JT Realmuto doesn’t pop a potential inning-ending double play ball. Rhys Hoskins scored an out against Charlie Morton and Alec Bohm singled against McHugh before Realmuto batted the ball in. At first he was called. The Phillies won the challenge.
“What a game,” said Thomson. “Rhys throws it. Bohmer has the hit. JT breaks it up to keep the inning going and give Casty a chance to hit a big home run. That was a big hit for him.”
With the lead, Thomson pulled all the right strings in the bullpen to get him to the finish line. Seranthony Dominguez had two outs in the eighth. Jose Alvarado retired the dangerous Matt Olson to end the inning. Then came newly acquired David Robertson, still wearing Chicago Cubs blue spikes, and made the save.
Robertson was with the Phillies in 2019 and 2020, but only played seven games after coming to town on a two-year, $23 million free agent deal and blowing his right elbow. At 37, after surgery and an arduous rehab, he’s back and he finally has his first stop as Phillie.
When asked how that felt, Robertson said: “It was definitely better than blowing it all up, if you want the truth. I had a lot of tough outings when I was here last time and it “It was nice to nail one for the team. We played hard, fought back and got a really nice win today.”
The Phillies ended their road trip at 5-1. They go home Thursday night with new faces (Noah Syndergaard will pitch) and a 56-48 record. They control the third and final wildcard spot in the NL.
Nobody Phillie goes home feeling better than Castellanos, who had 11 hits and five RBIs on the trip.
“I think it’s me gradually trying to do less and less and being satisfied with a hit to right field,” 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 to you.”
And as for that emotional trip around the bases and the welcome he received from his teammates in the dugout…
“I was really happy,” Castellanos said. “For me personally, of course, it was great, but more importantly, the Phillies needed it. We really have quality 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 chance to qualify for the playoffs.
“It sends a message that winning is the expectation here,” Castellanos said of the timeout additions. “I’ve been part of the delays when people leave the clubhouse instead of being added. It feels good when you have established guys coming in.
“With the additions we made more (Jean Segura and Bryce Harper) returning, this was the best time frame we could ask for. We haven’t fired on all cylinders yet and are in playoff contention. This should be interesting.”