The Atlanta Braves needed to take care of business to win game 2 of their series with the Philadelphia Phillies. Being down 2-0 in the NLDS would have been devastating heading into Citizens Bank Park.
It has been a rough start to the playoffs for Atlanta as the Phillies stole game one of the series by shutting out the Braves at home for the first time since 2021 and just the third time in 2023.
Game two of the NLDS started rough for the Braves, but it ended up being one of the most exciting MLB playoff games of all time. Atlanta's late-inning offensive outburst and incredible defensive performance earned them a 5-4 win, sending the series back to Philadelphia tied at 1 game apiece.
NLDS Game Two Highlights
Zach Wheeler was absolutely dealing against the Braves and flirted with a no-hitter through 5 innings. Wheeler had struck out the side in the first two innings and had 6 strikeouts to start the game. It looked even more bleak as Max Fried struggled mightily in his first postseason start.
Fried had not pitched in a while and you could tell. He wasn't as sharp as he'd hoped and it took 7 batters for him to get through the first inning. Trea Turner reached base on a double even though he should have been struck out on 3 pitches. The third pitch of that at-bat was a perfect pitch on the outside corner which the umpire missed.
This allowed Turner to score later on a single from Alec Bohm on the very next pitch. It seemed like that is when things began to fall apart for Fried. He really only seemed confident in his curveball and that's certainly not a good place to be against a potent offense.
He improved in the second inning but the third inning took the air out of Truist Park as J.T. Realmuto launched a 2-run homer to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead. Max's day ended after that fourth inning and it took 95 pitches for him to do so. He finished allowing 3 runs on 6 hits with 4 walks and 3 strikeouts.
Kirby Yates checked in for the fifth inning and struck out Realmuto to get his first-ever postseason appearance underway. Unfortunately, Philadelphia added on a 4th run in the 5th inning and things looked bleak for the home team.
The offense looked lethargic for the first 14 innings of this series as they were held scoreless. All they needed was a glimmer of hope and that came in the form of a 2-out walk to Ronald Acuna Jr. in the bottom of the 6th inning.
Ozzie Albies laced a first-pitch single to right field that ended Wheeler's no-hit bid and allowed Acuna Jr. to score the first run of the series. Trea Turner bobbled the throw back to the infield which allowed Ronald to score uncontested. That run awoke a sleeping giant.
In the 7th inning, the Phillies opted to let Wheeler go back out on the mound for whatever reason. It came back to bite them. Olson reached with a 111 mph single but Ozuna would strike out on a filthy breaking ball. Wheeler made the mistake of throwing a hanging first-pitch breaking ball to his former battery mate, Travis d'Arnaud.
d'Arnaud deposited that pitch into the left field seats sending a dormant crowd at Truist Park into an absolute frenzy. The momentum had officially shifted back to Atlanta's dugout.
Alvarado checked in for the Phillies and recorded the final two outs of the inning. This led to a very important inning from the Braves bullpen. A.J. Minter pitched the first and only clean inning of the night for Atlanta.
Alvarado stayed in to face Michael Harris II and was pulled after he got Harris to line out to center field. Jeff Hoffman replaced the flamethrowing lefty and immediately hit Acuna with a pitch. This shifted even more momentum into the Braves dugouts. You could feel it building with each and every pitch.
Ozzie Albies grounded out to first base for the second out and it was down to Austin Riley to come up with a game-changing hit. Austin ground out a six-pitch at-bat and on a 3-2 count hit the biggest home run of his postseason career. A one-handed majestic two-run home run to left field created absolute pandemonium in Atlanta.
Now, it was up to the bullpen to do their job and complete the comeback. A.J. Minter stayed in to face Bryce Harper and issued a lead-off walk. Raisel Iglesias then checked in to try and send everyone home happy.
A Catch for the Ages
He induced a fly ball out to J.T. Realmuto and then contended with the dangerous Nick Castellanos. Iglesias had Castellanos in a 2-2 count. No one was prepared for what was about to happen.
Castellanos connected with the next pitch sending it screaming through the night sky. Michael Harris II began racing toward the Braves bullpen and kept running for what felt like an eternity. It looked as if Philly may break the Braves backs with a 2-run homer to regain the lead.
However, that did not happen and Harris made one of the most unbelievable catches you will ever see! He leaped in the air and made the catch near the top of the fence and launched the ball back toward second base.
Harris didn't realize Bryce Harper had made a baserunning error and was just trying to keep him from advancing to second on the catch. The ball missed cut-off man, Orlando Arcia and second baseman, Ozzie Albies.
It seemed like Harper may have lucked out and made it back to first base. Unluckily for Harper, Austin Riley kept his eye on the play the entire time, grabbed the ball, and made one of the most athletic plays he's ever made to secure the final out.
This was the first time an 8-5-3 double play had ever been recorded in the playoffs and the only double play in postseason history to be started by an outfielder that ended the game. The 2023 Braves still found a way to make history during the playoffs as if they do enough of that during the regular season.
I have never seen Truist Park explode the way it did and even Matt Olson, who is normally very stoic, was pumping his fists and shouting with excitement. That was, single-handedly, the most incredible play I've ever seen in the playoffs.
This was the boost the Atlanta Braves needed ahead of making their way to Philadelphia and playing in front of a tough Phillies crowd in game 3. The momentum has shifted back toward Atlanta and changed the mood of this series. Hopefully, the high of winning a game like this carries into Wednesday's matchup.