'That's why he's here': Castellanos homers twice to secure Phils' return trip to NLCS

October 13th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- could see the excitement on his son Liam’s face from the on-deck circle Thursday night.

Liam pumped up his dad before he walked to the plate.

“Let’s go!” he said.

Let’s go. Those two words helped propel Castellanos as he became the first player in postseason history to have back-to-back games with multiple home runs when he hit a pair of homers in the Phillies’ 3-1 victory over the Braves in Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park. Castellanos’ homers helped Philly secure the win in the best-of-five series, sending the club to the NL Championship Series for a second consecutive year.

Game 1 against the D-backs is Monday at 8 p.m. ET at Citizens Bank Park.

“He ran up to me and gave me a hug,” Castellanos said about his postgame encounter with 10-year-old Liam. “Then I asked him if he wanted to go to Xfinity [Live!]. And he said, ‘Yeah!’”

The Phillies took their postgame party to the entertainment complex across the street from the ballpark because they dispatched the Braves from the postseason for a second straight year. Atlanta won 104 games this year. It had arguably the greatest offense in baseball history. It had an ace in Spencer Strider that Philly could not beat in the regular season. The Phils not only silenced the Braves’ bats with excellent starting pitching and a stalwart bullpen, but they also won both games that Strider pitched, including Game 4.

The Braves needed to win Thursday to send the series back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5 on Saturday night. Third baseman Austin Riley hit a solo homer against Philly left-hander Ranger Suárez in the fourth inning to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.

It was the first time this postseason the Bank fell silent, if for only a moment.

Castellanos said after a brutal Game 2 loss on Monday in Atlanta that the Phillies thrive when they are punched in the face. Well, Castellanos countered Riley’s punch in  the bottom of the fourth. He crushed a first-pitch slider from Strider for a game-tying solo home run to left field. Castellanos coolly flipped his bat, then sprinted around the bases. He pointed to the sky before he touched home plate, dragged his hand across the dirt, then pointed to Liam, who has become a fixture at the ballpark and in the clubhouse the past two years.

“It’s such an incredible moment,” J.T. Realmuto said. “I can’t imagine being a father with your son there like that when he can appreciate it. I can’t imagine being Liam and getting to watch your dad succeed in the postseason like this and the crowd going wild. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. How cool of a moment is that for a father and a son?”

“We're pretty lucky to play a game for a living and just have some fun,” Trea Turner said. “I think it's special, and it's really cool.”

It is cool, Castellanos said.

“You know, this is what I do for a living,” he said. “Baseball is my job, and it takes me away from him more than I would like it to. So to be able to -- for him to be able to come and be next to me and be a part of this, I mean, he's been at the house when I've sucked. He's been at the house when I've done well. He's been at the house during so many different times of my career throughout his life. So for him to be able to be next to me and witness all of it, I think, is good for his maturation in the future. So as close as I can keep him to me, you know, is always going to make me happier.”

Turner hit a solo homer in the fifth to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Castellanos added an insurance run when he crushed a 100-mph fastball from Strider into the left-field seats to make it 3-1. Strider had never allowed a home run on a faster pitch in his two-year career. Castellanos had never hit a home run on pitch that fast since Statcast began tracking pitches in 2015. Nobody on the Phillies had, either. 

The homer knocked Strider out of the game.

The ballpark went wild.

“There’s not really a lot of words that are going to be able to capture that feeling, but it's special,” Castellanos said.

Castellanos raised his arms and cap to fans as he walked to his spot in right field in the seventh. His first season in Philadelphia in 2022 was a difficult one. Castellanos struggled with his new surroundings and being away from his family.

Nothing felt right, and it showed on the field.

But Castellanos is more comfortable now. He made the NL All-Star team this year and he finished the regular season with 29 home runs and 106 RBIs. He hit a pair of homers in Game 3 of the NLDS, including a game-tying home in the third that sparked a six-run rally. He batted .467 (7-for-15) with four home runs, four RBIs and a 1.796 OPS in the series. It is the 10th-best OPS by any player in any Division Series in postseason history. Bryce Harper’s 1.765 OPS in this series is 13th.

“This year, I feel like me being in a more comfortable spot, all the extra energy that comes with playoff baseball, I'm able to channel it better,” Castellanos said.

Castellanos channeled that energy into those two huge homers, two huge moments, in Game 4. His homers both came against Strider, who represented Atlanta’s last stand.

“‘That’s why you’re here,’” Harper said he told Castellanos after he homered. “‘That’s why I wanted you here. For [these] moments right there.’ 

“We were 16, 17, 18 years old playing for Team USA. He did the same stuff, in the biggest tournaments, on the biggest stages. That’s Nick Castellanos. And that’s why he’s here.”