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

ATLANTA — Nick Castellanos raised his right hand in triumph and gave it a little push as he circled first base. On the bench, his teammates went a little crazy.

It’s been a rough first season in Philly for the big free-agent addition, but all the grind and stress seemed to melt away with a thud in the Georgia sun on Wednesday afternoon.

Castellanos’ first home run in more than a month, a two-out, tiebreaking two-run homer to center in the top of the eighth, led the Phillies and Zack Wheeler to a big 3-1 win over the Phillies. Atlanta Braves.

Castellanos’ ninth home run of the season was his first since June 30 and a span of 113 plate appearances.

His reaction rounding the bases said how cathartic it was for him.

The reaction on the bench showed how much support his teammates have for him.

“It was exciting (on the bench) because everyone was rooting for him,” manager Rob Thomson said. “They know what he’s been through and they know he cares and that’s why they care about him. It was really cool.”

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 right-hander walked without a walk and struck out seven, but he wasn’t looking for run support until the Phillies rallied for three in the top of the eighth.

Wheeler was on the steps of the dugout when Castellanos tackled Collin McHugh.

“Nick is a really good hitter,” Wheeler said. “He’s just struggled a little 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 him. It was nice to see him hit that home run in a big spot.”

Castellanos’ biggest hit as a Phillie doesn’t happen if JT Realmuto doesn’t throw a potential double-play ball that would have ended the inning. Rhys Hoskins walked with one out against Charlie Morton and Alec Bohm singled against McHugh before Realmuto won the ball from him. At first, they called him. The Phillies won the challenge.

“What a play,” Thomson said. “Rhys gets it going. Bohmer gets the hit. JT breaks it up to keep the inning 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 right strings in the bullpen to get to the finish line. Seranthony Dominguez got two outs in the eighth. José Alvarado retired the dangerous Matt Olson to end the inning. Then newly acquired David Robertson came in, still wearing blue Chicago Cubs spikes, and made the save.

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

Asked how he felt, Robertson said: “It was definitely better than blowing it, if you want to know the truth. I had a lot of tough starts when I was here last time and it felt good to get one for the team. defended and got a very good victory today.

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

No one from Phillie comes 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 happy with a hit to right field,” he said of his hot streak. “I think it’s a good starting point for me. Just gradually letting go of expectations and letting the game come to you again.”

And as for that emotional trip to the bases and the greeting he received from his teammates on the bench…

“I was very happy,” Castellanos said. “For me personally, of course, it felt great, but more importantly, the Phillies needed it. We’ve got some really 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 make the playoffs.

“It sends a message that winning is the expectation here,” Castellanos said of the deadline additions. “I’ve been a part of the timelines when people leave the clubhouse instead of being added. It feels good when established guys come in.

“With the additions we made the most (Jean Segura and Bryce Harper) coming back, this was the best deadline we could ask for. We haven’t clicked on all cylinders yet and we’re in playoff contention. It should be interesting.”

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