Kyle McDanielESPN MLB Insider4 minutes of reading
ATLANTA — A historic and improbable double play was sparked Michael Harris II led the Braves’ dramatic series-tying comeback against the Phillies on Monday night in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
After rallying from a four-run deficit, the Braves clung to a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning until Bryce Harper was on first base and Nick Castellanos batted with one out. Castellanos hit a fly ball to deep right-center field that would have been a home run in five major league ballparks and gave Statcast a .610 expected batting average.
However, Harris was quick to read it and told reporters after the game: “I knew it was going to be near the fence, so as soon as I went back, I didn’t stop. I was going to do anything. I could get a glove on it.”
Harris leapt to catch it, hit the outfield wall, then immediately put his feet up to relay the ball to second base in the infield. Harper was five steps past second base when Harris caught the ball.
“Usually you don’t get past the bases,” Phillies manager Rob Thompson said. “You stay in front of it and make sure it’s not caught. But he thought the ball was clear over his head and he didn’t think he was going to catch it. And Harris did a heck of a job. Unbelievable. He tried. Come back, he slipped, but usually you get a second. Stay ahead of the curve.”
Second baseman Ozzie Albies tried to scoop Harris’ throw, but third baseman Austin Riley was standing between second base and the mound. It’s not by design.
“I think I was only in one position because I was screaming and the momentum just kept pulling me that way,” Riley said. “It ended up being the right place at the right time.”
Riley scooped the ball with his backhand and threw it to first in one motion, like fielding a slow roller at third base. It completed the first 8-5-3 double play in MLB postseason history and the first double play involving an outfielder to end a postseason game.
Harris, after the play, didn’t know where Harper was, so he threw the ball toward second base.
“We saw a slomo here [in the clubhouse],” he said. “I didn’t know he went last second, so I threw it in … I think Riley was in the right place to make the throw, made an incredible throw.”
Harper praised Harris for his play.
“Take a chance,” he said of his own base running. “Michael made a great play and doubled me up. Tough way to finish it.”
The Phillies led 4-0 in the sixth inning and 4-1 in the seventh when Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud hit a two-run homer off former Mets batter Matt Zach Wheeler to make it 4-3. It ended up being a great night for Wheeler, who struck out 10, walked one, and allowed just three hits.
“We tried to be as positive as possible in that dugout,” Riley said of the Braves’ mindset leading up to the home run. “Everybody said we have to keep going and keep going. [Wheeler] It was an incredible night. He was so dominant … Once we get that crowd back, good things happen.”
Riley struck the final blow with a go-ahead homer off Jeff Hoffman.
“I tried to put a barrel on the ball,” he said. “That was it. It was definitely on me [homers].”
The series now heads to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4. The Phillies will start Aaron Nola on Wednesday. Manager Brian Snitker said Tuesday that the Braves will reveal the Game 3 starter.