Austin Riley, Braves stun Phillies to even NLDS

By Field Level Media

October 9, 2023 – 8:04 PM PDT

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The Atlanta Braves were four outs away from falling behind 2-0 in the National League Division Series when Austin Riley put on the hero cape.

The Atlanta third baseman slugged a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning and made a fine defensive play in the ninth, helping the Braves rally from a four-run deficit to post a 5-4 victory over the visiting Philadelphia Phillies on Monday.

The comeback allowed Atlanta to even the best-of-five NLDS at one game apiece. Game 3 is Wednesday at Philadelphia.

The Braves’ offense was dead for most of the night with Phillies ace Zack Wheeler delivering a strong performance.

But Riley’s big blast in the eighth off Jeff Hoffman (1-1) turned the game around and changed the tenor of the series.

“I was just trying to put a barrel on the ball,” Riley said. “That’s all it was. It’s definitely up there with my top ones. … Obviously still a lot of work to do. Just going to enjoy this one tonight.”

Yet Riley had another significant play to make as the Phillies threatened to tie or regain the lead in the ninth.

Bryce Harper was on first with one out when Nick Castellanos hit a blast to deep right center off Raisel Iglesias that leaping Braves center fielder Michael Harris II caught while colliding with the fence. Harper was about 20 feet past second as Harris threw the ball to the infield but missed the cutoff man.

However, Riley was backing up the play and he threw to first to retire Harper and end the contest.

“Every playoff win is exciting,” said Atlanta’s Travis d’Arnaud, who also hit a two-run homer. “I think the way it ended was one of the most exciting endings to games I’ve ever seen as far as a defensive standpoint.”

The baserunning gaffe by Harper made for a tough ending for the Phillies.

“Usually you don’t pass the base. You stay in front of it, make sure it’s not caught,” Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said. “But he thought the ball was clearly over (Harris’) head, didn’t think he was going to catch it. And Harris made a heck of a play.”

In the seventh, d’Arnaud drilled Wheeler’s last pitch of the night over the fence in left to pull the Braves within 4-3. It was his first postseason homer this year and 10th of his career.

Wheeler went 5 2/3 innings before allowing his first hit. Wheeler struck out 10 — tying Philadelphia’s single-game postseason record — and gave up three runs (two earned) and three hits with one walk over 6 1/3 innings.

J.T. Realmuto slugged a two-run homer for the Phillies, who left 11 runners on base. Alec Bohm’s RBI single and Bryson Stott’s sacrifice fly accounted for the other runs.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Thomson said. “You get up four nothing on these guys and you had some opportunities to break it open, and you didn’t, and they come back.”

Bohm’s hit in the first gave Philadelphia its first run. Realmuto homered in the third to make it 3-0 — the blast was Realmuto’s second of this postseason and fifth of his career — and Stott’s sacrifice fly came in the fifth.

Matt Olson reached on Trea Turner’s fielding error in the second and was the only Atlanta batter to reach base until Acuna walked with two outs in the sixth.

Ozzie Albies followed with a hard single to right for the first hit off Wheeler as Acuna advanced to third. On the play, Turner misplayed the throw from right fielder Castellanos, and Acuna dashed home.

Atlanta’s A.J. Minter (1-0) worked a perfect eighth before walking Harper to start the ninth. Iglesias notched the save.

Braves left-hander Max Fried allowed three runs and six hits in a four-inning start. He walked four and struck out three while making his first big-league appearance since Sept. 21 due to a blister on his left index finger.

–Field Level Media

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