By Peter Marks
Nick Castellanos’ teammates didn’t want him to catch it.
Neither did his manager.
After hitting two home runs, Castellanos saved the game with a perfect, one-hop throw as the Phils beat the Atlanta Braves 6-5 in 10 innings, handing the NL East champions their fifth loss in six games.
The Phils have a lock onb the top wild card spot and they would open at CBP against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Oct. 3.
The Braves rallied from a four-run deficit and had a chance to walk off with the win in the ninth after pinch-runner Luke Williams stole second and third.
Orlando Arcia hit a fly ball down the right-field line that appeared deep enough to bring home the tagging Williams. But Castellanos made the catch in foul territory, spun completely around and threw home in time for Garrett Stubbs to tag the runner on the right shoulder.
“I thought I should drop it,” Castellanos said. “Then, at the last minute, a voice popped in my head and said, ‘Catch it and throw him out.’”
Phillies manager Rob Thomson was certainly pulling for Castellanos to let the ball hit the ground. He figured there was little chance to throw out Williams from roughly 280 feet away, especially when Castellanos wasn’t able to make the catch with his momentum going toward home plate.
“He made a heck of a play,” Thomson said. “We were all sitting there in the dugout murmuring, ‘Drop it, drop it, drop it.’”
In the 10th, Bryson Stott came through after an intentional walk loaded the bases with two outs, lining an opposite-field double down the third-base line that brought home two runs off A.J. Minter (3-6).
Craig Kimbrel (8-6) claimed the win and Matt Strahm earned his second save, limiting the Braves to Ozzie Albies’ sacrifice fly.
Castellanos staked the Phillies to a 4-0 lead with a pair of homers off Bryce Elder, but the Braves tied it in the eighth with Austin Riley’s run-scoring single and Marcell Ozuna’s towering drive that ricocheted off the brick wall in right for an RBI double.
The Phillies strengthened their hold on the NL wild-card lead with 10 games remaining, coming into the day with a 3 1/2-game buffer for a postseason spot. They also won two of three in the series against their division rivals, who they may see again in the playoffs.
A year ago, Philadelphia upset the Braves in the NL Division Series on a surprising run to the World Series.
“We want to play some tight baseball,” Castellanos said, “because October is getting pretty close.”
The Phillies kept Ronald Acuña Jr. in the ballpark after he went deep twice the previous night, leaving the Braves slugger/speedster one homer shy of becoming the first player in baseball history with at least 40 homers and 60 stolen bases in a season.
Acuña went 1 for 5 with a run scored, remaining at 39 homers and 67 stolen bases.
Castellanos led off the second with a 432-foot drive to center and followed in the fourth with a two-run shot off Elder.
It was the fourth multihomer game of the season and 13th of his career for Castellanos, who has 27 homers on the season.
Phillies starter Aaron Nola retired the first nine Atlanta hitters before Acuña lined a single to start the fourth. Nola went six innings, surrendering two runs on six hits with eight strikeouts.