MIAMI -- Nick Castellanos grew up in South Florida. He still lives here.
Castellanos drove home late Sunday night after the Phillies’ flight from Pittsburgh landed. He called his brother Ryan. He called his friend Rudy, who has been throwing batting practice to him for years. He told them to come to the house so he could hit in his batting cage. Castellanos has been stuck in a brutal slump for almost a month. He thought some home cooking and a few familiar faces might help.
So Castellanos hit in his cage from about 11:45 p.m. until 1 a.m.
“Let’s go get this right,” Castellanos said after hitting a go-ahead two-run home run in the ninth inning of the Phils’ 3-1 victory over the Marlins on Tuesday night at loanDepot park. “It’s just an environment thing, right? It’s just comfort and familiarity with my brother and Rudy and just my home. It was a good time.”
Castellanos was an NL All-Star because of a strong first three months of the season. But he entered Tuesday with a .348 OPS from July 4-31, which ranked last out of 128 qualified hitters in the Major Leagues. Anthony Rizzo ranked 127th with a .422 OPS, 74 points higher than Castellanos. Phillies manager Rob Thomson did not play Castellanos in Monday’s series opener, hoping the day off might help him reset.
Castellanos said it did.
“It’s really nice being home,” he said. “Just being able to go back to my house, be there and see everybody that’s really familiar to me. Just kind of get a feeling of my roots again. Coincidentally, it’s [my son] Liam’s 10th birthday today. Just to be able to have a nice night and day on my day off and not have to stress about trying to find something or fix something in the game. I just got to unplug and enjoy my home, enjoy my family and then just reset a little bit.”
Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara tossed eight scoreless innings against the Phillies and allowed just four hits. David Robertson, Miami’s new closer, started the ninth by walking Kyle Schwarber on seven pitches. Bryce Harper then ripped a one-out double off the left-field wall to score pinch-runner Jake Cave and tie the game.
“Big situation, just trying to get that run in, any way, any how,” Harper said. “It was a really good opportunity for us with Sandy coming out. Sandy threw the ball really well today. One of the best in the league. He had Sandy stuff today. Get him out of there, D-Rob is one of the best to do it right now -- we were able to jump on him and get it going.”
Robertson got ahead of Castellanos, 0-2. Castellanos has been chasing everything off the plate lately, so it was reasonable to expect a slider as Robertson’s putaway pitch. Sure enough, Robertson threw a slider -- but he hung this one over the middle of the plate.
Castellanos barreled the pitch with a Statcast-projected 105.3 mph exit velocity. The homer gave the Phillies (58-49) the lead as they battle with the Giants (59-49) for the top two NL Wild Card spots.
“Amazing,” Castellanos said. “Personal reasons, and also because it was such a big spot in the game.”
The Phillies will need more moments like this from their offense in the season’s final two months. They did not acquire a big bat before the Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, though they picked up right-hander Michael Lorenzen and switch-hitter Rodolfo Castro. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said the club simply needs its superstars to step up.
Two of them did on Tuesday, giving one of them an even nicer ride home.
“We’re a resilient group,” Castellanos said. “I still think there’s a lot of guys in this clubhouse that haven’t particularly performed the way they personally have wanted to, but everybody does such a good job of being a professional, showing up to work and caring about the right things. We’re able to squeak things out like this.”