Kiley McDanielESPN MLB Insider3 Minute Read
ATLANTA — The Braves’ thrilling comeback in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Phillies was sealed by an extraordinary double play executed by Michael Harris II.
Trailing by four runs, the Braves held on to a slim 5-4 lead in the ninth inning with Bryce Harper on first base and Nick Castellanos stepping up to bat. Castellanos hit a deep fly ball towards right-center field, which would have left the park in most stadiums and had a .610 expected batting average according to StatCast.
However, Harris astutely anticipated the trajectory of the ball. “I knew off the bat it was going to be close to the fence, so I knew once I went back, I wasn’t stopping. I was going to do anything I could to get a glove on it,” said Harris in a postgame interview.
Harris made a leaping catch, crashing into the outfield wall, before promptly relaying the ball towards second base. At that moment, Harper had already ventured past second base, leading Phillies manager Rob Thomson to acknowledge, “Usually you don’t pass the base… He thought the ball was clearly over his head, didn’t think he was going to catch it. And Harris made a heck of a play.”
Although second baseman Ozzie Albies missed the ball while attempting to scoop Harris’ throw, third baseman Austin Riley happened to be backing up Albies in the right position. Reflecting on the play, Riley confessed, “I think the only reason I was in the position that I was because I was screaming one and just momentum just kept pulling me that way. And it ended up just being right spot at the right time.”
Riley scooped the ball backhanded and seamlessly threw it to first base, mirroring the fluidity of fielding a slow roller at third base. This marked the first 8-5-3 double play in MLB postseason history and the first double play ever involving an outfielder to end a postseason game.
Surprisingly, Harris admitted he was unaware of Harper’s position, explaining why he threw the ball towards second base. “We just saw a slomo here [in the clubhouse],” he said. “I didn’t know that he went past second, so I threw it in … I guess Riley was right there in the right spot to make the throw, made an incredible throw.”
Harper was impressed by Harris’ play, saying, “Just taking a chance. Michael made a great play and doubled me up. Tough way to end it.”
The Phillies had a comfortable 4-0 lead in the sixth inning and 4-1 in the seventh when Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud homered off former Mets teammate Zack Wheeler, reducing the deficit to 4-3. Wheeler had an exceptional night overall, recording 10 strikeouts and allowing only three hits and one walk.
Riley delivered the decisive blow with a go-ahead home run off Jeff Hoffman.
“I was just trying to put a barrel on the ball,” he said. “That’s all it was. It’s definitely up there with my top [homers].”
As the series moves to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4, the Phillies will have Aaron Nola as their starting pitcher on Wednesday. Braves manager Brian Snitker will likely reveal the Game 3 starter on Tuesday.
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