Remarkable Double Play by the Braves Seals NLDS Game 2 Comeback Victory
ATLANTA — An unprecedented and astonishing double play, orchestrated by Michael Harris II, brought the Braves a thrilling comeback victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Phillies on Monday night.
After surmounting a four-run deficit, the Braves held a precarious 5-4 lead in the ninth inning, with Bryce Harper stationed on first base and Nick Castellanos poised to bat with one out. Castellanos launched a deep right-center field fly ball, a hit that would have cleared the fence in five major league ballparks, and received an astonishing .610 expected batting average according to StatCast.
However, Harris exhibited remarkable foresight, later telling reporters, “From the moment it left the bat, I sensed it would approach the fence. I had no intention of halting; I was unwavering in my commitment to do whatever was necessary to reach that ball.”
Harris vaulted into the air to make the catch, colliding with the outfield wall. Immediately, he regained his footing and swiftly hurled the ball back towards second base. At that moment, Harper found himself approximately five paces past second base.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson remarked, “Typically, one doesn’t overshoot the base; the standard practice is to remain in proximity to ensure an uncatchable ball. Yet, he believed the ball had indisputably cleared his head, doubting it would be caught. Harris executed an extraordinary play. Astonishing. Harper attempted to return but slipped; ordinarily, one would hold their ground in front of second base.”
Second baseman Ozzie Albies made an unsuccessful attempt to grasp Harris’ throw, but third baseman Austin Riley was strategically positioned between second base and the pitcher’s mound, coincidentally.
Riley deftly scooped the ball with a backhanded motion and promptly threw it to first base, much like fielding a slow-rolling grounder at third base. This action concluded the game, marking the first-ever 8-5-3 double play in MLB postseason history and the inaugural double play featuring an outfielder concluding a postseason match.
Harris admitted post-game that he had no knowledge of Harper’s whereabouts, prompting his throw towards second base.
“In the clubhouse, we just reviewed the replay in slow motion,” he stated. “I was unaware that he had advanced beyond second base, which is why I directed the ball towards that area. I suppose Riley was fortuitously positioned to make that exceptional throw.”
Harper praised Harris for his performance, acknowledging, “It was a calculated risk on my part. Michael executed a fantastic play and doubled me up. A disappointing conclusion.”
The Phillies held a 4-0 lead in the sixth inning and a 4-1 advantage in the seventh when Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud crushed a two-run homer against former Mets batterymate Zack Wheeler, narrowing the score to 4-3. This tarnished an otherwise outstanding outing by Wheeler, who accumulated ten strikeouts, issued just one walk, and conceded a mere three hits.
Riley spoke of the Braves’ mindset leading up to the crucial home run, saying, “We endeavored to maintain an optimistic outlook in the dugout. Everyone emphasized the importance of persisting, urging each other to keep pushing forward. [Wheeler] had an absolutely commanding presence…but once we rekindled the crowd’s fervor, fortuitous events ensued.”
Riley delivered the deciding blow with a go-ahead home run off Jeff Hoffman.
“I simply aimed to make solid contact with the ball,” he explained. “That was my sole objective. This home run ranks among my most memorable.”
The series now shifts to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4. The Phillies will deploy Aaron Nola as their starting pitcher on Wednesday. Braves manager Brian Snitker indicated that he will likely disclose the Braves’ Game 3 starter on Tuesday.