ATLANTA – Nick Castellanos raised his right hand triumphantly and gave it a little pumping as he circled first base. In the dugout, his teammates were a little gone.
It’s been a tough first season in Philadelphia for the addition of the big free agent, but it seems like all the pressure and all the tension faded with one swing under the hot Georgia sun on Wednesday afternoon.
Castellanos’ first kick in over a month, a two-time playoff in eighth with two eighth-place wins, Velez and Zach Wheeler lifted a massive 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Homer Castellanos’ ninth of the season was his first since June 30 and 113 games.
His reaction about the rules told him exactly how cathartic it was for him.
The reaction in the dugout showed how supportive his colleagues were.
“It was electric (in the bunker) because everyone pulls it,” said technical director Rob Thompson. “They know what he’s been through and they know he cares and so they care about him. It was really neat.”
Wheeler was brilliant. He made seven innings and only allowed one run on a fault slide for Orlando Archia with two wins in the fifth inning. The right-handed didn’t walk with nothing and hit a seven but was looking for support not to run until Phillies rallied to three at the top of the eighth.
Wheeler was on the hidden steps when Castellanos took Colin McHugh to the rear.
“Nick is a really good hitter,” Wheeler said. “He struggled a little bit, but I think people are exaggerating it more than he is. He was a very strong hitter for us if you really look at him. It was nice to see him run around the house in a big place.”
Castellanos’ biggest hit as Phillie doesn’t happen if JT Realmuto hadn’t made a potential double play ball that would have ended the game. Rhys Hoskins walked one against Charlie Morton and Alec Bohm against McHugh before Realmuto hit the ball. At first, he was called. Phillies won the challenge.
“What a play,” Thompson said. “Reece runs. Boehmer hits it. JT stops it to continue the game and give Caste a chance of a big hit at home. That was a huge success for him.”
With the lead, Thompson pulled all the right leads in the bullseye to get them to the finish line. Seranthony Dominguez has two wins for eighth. Jose Alvarado retired dangerous Matt Olson to finish the half. Then the newly acquired David Robertson, still wearing blue Chicago Cubs boots, came along and flopped.
Robertson was with the Phillies in 2019 and 2020, but made just seven appearances after coming to town on a two-year, $23 million free agent contract and blew his right elbow. At the age of 37, after surgery and arduous rehabilitation, he’s back and finally comes to the rescue for the first time as Phillie.
When asked how he was feeling, Robertson said, “It was definitely better than blowing, if you want the truth. I had a lot of tough walks when I was here last time and it felt like it was good to put one on the team. We played hard, fought back and won. Fabulous today.”
The Feliz finished their road trip at 5-1. They come home Thursday night with fresh faces (Noah Sendergaard will cast) and score 56-48. They dominate the NL’s third and final wild card place.
Nobody comes home feeling better than Castellanos, who had 11 hits and five RBIs on the trip.
“I guess I’m gradually trying to do less and less and be happy with a base stroke on the right field,” he said of his hot streak. “I think that’s a good starting point for me. Just let go of expectations gradually and go back to letting the game come to you.”
And about that emotional journey around the rules and the greetings he received from his fellow dugouts…
“I was really happy,” said Castellanos. “For me personally, of course, it was a great feeling, but more importantly, Phillies needed him. We have really special people in this team, and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for.”
Well, that and a deadline for fruitful trade 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 part of the deadlines when people leave the club rather than being added. It feels good when you’ve established guys who come in.
“With the additions we’ve made as well as the return of (Jean Segura and Brice Harper), this was the best deadline we could have asked for. We still haven’t hit all cylinders yet and we’re in the playoff competition. It should be interesting.”