Nick Castellanos put the Phillies on his back Thursday night as they returned to Citizens Bank Park for a seven-game homestand, driving in four runs in three different innings of a 5-4 win.
Castellanos hit a two-out, two-run single up the middle in the first inning, a sacrifice fly in the third and his farthest home run since at least 2015 — 454 feet — in the sixth to untie the game.
Castellanos had a huge game Wednesday as well, with two homers and a game-saving outfield assist to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Philadelphia sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
He’s up to 28 home runs and set a new career high with 103 RBI. He has more 15 homers and 41 more RBI than last season. His OPS is 94 points higher.
Those voices in his head must be offering good advice.
“With the struggles and everything I had last year and getting used to Philadelphia and Philadelphia media, to come up short and not be able to win the World Series, to come back and remain healthy for a full season and be productive, sure it feels good,” he said.
“The two stats I care most about are how many times you touch home and how many times you help other people touch home.”
Castellanos has responded just how a manager would want after moving a player down in the order. He’s hit .340 with six home runs and 18 RBI in those 13 games. He hit sixth on Thursday. After the series finale in Atlanta, Rob Thomson mentioned wanting to keep him in that range because it gives the Phillies another run producer toward the bottom of the order.
“I thought he’d have a bounce-back year, I really did,” Thomson said. “He may have exceeded what I expected. I thought he’d be back to his normal self and he’s been pretty close, if not better.”
Thursday was the first of seven meetings in the final 10 games of the season between the Phillies and Mets. Buck Showalter’s team is 71-82 and the season has been over for months, but these games won’t be easy. The Mets will want to spoil things as much as they can for a division rival, and they’ve played the Phils tough in recent years.
“That team, Buck’s teams, they’re always prepared to play and they play hard,” Thomson said. “Those guys are battling for jobs next year. They’re not going to lay down.”
At 84-69 with nine games left, the Phillies lead the Diamondbacks by three games for the top National League wild-card spot. They also own the tiebreaker, making it a four-game lead with nine to go. If the Phillies go just 4-5, the D-backs would need to go 8-1 to catch them. Arizona finishes the season with road series against the Yankees and White Sox and three at home with the Astros, who could be fighting to win the AL West. The Phils’ magic number to clinch is 5 to make the playoffs and 6 to clinch the first wild card.
Ranger Suarez was an out away from completing seven innings Thursday and allowed four runs. It was his first time giving up more than three since July 26. He has a 3.27 ERA over that span, and the Phillies have won three of his last four starts.
Craig Kimbrel walked a tightrope in a scoreless eighth inning when he allowed two singles and two stolen bases before escaping with a foulout and strikeout. Kimbrel has been as affected as any pitcher in baseball by the pitch timer, leading MLB in violations and average time between pitches, and he’s always had problems controlling the running game. Despite that, he has a 3.18 ERA in 67 appearances. He’s made more than 68 only once in his 14-year career, all the way back in 2011.
Jose Alvarado allowed a one-out double but pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the victory, striking out Pete Alonso representing the go-ahead run.
The Phillies’ non-Castellanos run came on an Alec Bohm homer in the third inning. He’s at 18 with 93 RBI, giving him an outside chance at 20 and 100. The at-bat was even more impressive considered he appeared to ding his knee and was on the ground in pain for a few seconds before going deep.
“Bohm is a very good baseball. He’s a very good hitter,” Castellanos said. “And the fact that he has grown playing here in Philadelphia, which I can say is not the easiest place to play because I’ve played in other places, he’s a stud, man. And where he came from from early last year when I first put on a Phillies uniform and now to see where he is, it’s incredible.”