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Castellanos & Suárez applied the pressure to secure Game 1 win over defending champs

The flashes of the postseason have always allowed stars to rise to the occasion. But so far, this October has witnessed entire franchises rise from the ashes and dust off their pre-season predictions of failure, inability to compete with elite franchises that pursue heavy-weight talent that would enable them to be feared, and lastly, the unrealistic goal to pursue a World Series title. 

The Philadelphia Phillies paused that notion as they won Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the defending World Series champions, Atlanta Braves, as they took down the reigning champs 7-6 in Braves territory. The Phillies have gone undefeated (3-0) after sweeping the NL West champion St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card series and sending the Braves into the trenches of the loss column after Tuesday’s noon game.

Nick Castellanos had a career day in the batter’s box, becoming a definitive source for the Phillies’ offensive -– and later defensive — stride in Game 1 of the NLDS. Castellanos went 3-for-5 with a 3 RBI game — a career-postseason high. Castellanos 2022 postseason stats are coming in hot and valuable for a team looking for postseason success for the first time in over a decade. The 30-year-old All-Star and Silver Slugger slash line for the last three postseason games this season sits at .250/.308/.333. 

“Anytime that I do anything to help the team that wins, to be able to now get to where as a team we want to get to, the postseason, we’re in a great spot,” Castellanos expressed after securing the victory. “It’s kind of just a fresh start, a clean slate, so to speak. And obviously, these games are really intense.”

The Braves flirted with a comeback with a straight-away three-run blast to center field off the bat of Matt Olson in the ninth inning. However, reliever Zach Eflin got rookie William Contreras to line out to Castellanos, who made the game’s biggest defensive play with an all-out dive to prevent another base runner from getting on and preserving the second out in the ninth inning.

“Like, thank God I caught that ball,” Castellanos said after being asked what was running through his mind when he made the diving play in right field. “Just they obviously had a big point in the game right there with putting them within one. So to be able to catch that and have two outs and nobody on base, I mean, was huge.”

Ranger Suárez was the heartbeat of the Phillies’ ability to temper their nerves and allow their talents to do the talking. The 27-year-old from Piedecuesta, Venezuela, took the mound and hurled 3.1 innings of three-hit ball, surrendering one run — a solo shot to left-center field from the bat of Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud – and walking and striking out five batters in his first postseason-start win. 

The biggest test for the 10-win hurler came in the bottom of the third inning when faced with a bases-loaded threat after walking two and giving up a single to Olson. But Suárez was able to command three strikeouts, including the last out of the inning, by striking out d’Arnaud with a heater 94 mph above the zone. With that final strikeout of the day, Suárez let out an energizing scream that pumped up the Phillies dugout and fueled them to finish the game with the utmost confidence. 

 “When he needed to, he made big pitches. And so I’m proud of him for that,” Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said on Suárez’s pitching performance and ability to escape game-changing jams.

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