“Twenty-nine other catchers in the league, that’s a double play,” Snitker said. “He amazes me, how he plays every day and just the energy and what he can contribute to a game, that’s amazing.”
“He can run,” McHugh said.
“He’s a great athlete,” Charlie Morton said.
The next batter, Nick Castellanos, hit a 420-foot, two-run home run off McHugh with two outs. It once looked as if the Braves had escaped the inning, but they suddenly trailed by two runs after the home run.
The Braves (63-42) missed a chance to sweep their division rival. The momentum shift began with Realmuto’s speed. According to Statcast, he sprinted to first base at 30 feet per second. That’s considered elite speed for any player, let alone a catcher. Realmuto’s sprint to first ranked in the 99th percentile in sprint speed in MLB this season.
“You’ve known he can run his entire career,” McHugh said.
“We did everything right, it was just that the ball wasn’t hit hard enough,” Snitker said.
The Phillies’ three-run eighth inning spoiled an outstanding start from Morton, who shut out the Phillies over 6 ⅔ innings. Dylan Lee got the final out of the seventh inning and the first out of the eighth before McHugh took over. And to that point, Arcia’s fifth-inning home run was the game’s lone run.
In the top of the eighth, McHugh entered the game and allowed a single before the Realmuto play. Castellanos then took a McHugh slider, which looked to be at the bottom of the zone, and launched a two-run homer. The pitch looked like a good one to Snitker, but McHugh was not pleased.
“Nah, it wasn’t a good pitch, it was a middle-middle slider, and Castellanos put a real good swing on it,” McHugh said.
A week ago, Morton crumbled during a disastrous inning in which he committed a costly error before the Phillies hit him hard. That mess, and Morton’s spiral, took center stage in an ugly loss as the Braves dropped the series in Philadelphia.
That feels like a year ago.
In between that day and Wednesday, the Braves swept the Diamondbacks, extended third baseman Riley, and acquired Raisel Iglesias, Jake Odorizzi, Robbie Grossman and Ehire Adrianza. Oh, and Riley won NL Player of the Month while Spencer Strider won NL Rookie of the Month.
And after the dust settled, the Braves had one more game on this homestand before heading out on a three-city trip that includes a crucial series in New York. They were a couple of innings away from sweeping the Phillies in a two-game series at Truist Park.
Phillies 3, Braves 1 (box score)
Morton allowed only three hits and struck out eight batters. Arcia homered for the second consecutive game, taking Zack Wheeler deep for a 442-foot solo blast. The Braves were set to win a pitchers’ duel.
“That’s the kind of outing that keeps you up at night because you know you’re close enough there to at least get through six quality innings,” Morton said of his last start. “Even in that game, I felt like I threw the ball well. There was a leadoff walk and it’s kind of like guys were running on me and it just got sloppy. That was still in my mind.”
And even after that ball left the yard, the Braves threatened in the bottom of the eighth. In his first at-bat with the club, Grossman doubled. Ronald Acuña followed with a walk. But Dansby Swanson struck out before Matt Olson popped out to end the inning.
David Robertson, the closer the Phillies acquired from the Cubs at the deadline, retired the Braves in order in the bottom of the ninth.
The Braves can’t spend time thinking about this loss. They have five games in four days in New York, beginning Thursday. The Braves’ loss put them three games behind the first-place Mets, who hadn’t yet played when the Braves finished their game.
Many times, teams publicly downplay the meaning of a series like this.
That’s not the case here. The Braves know how important this weekend is for them.
“It’s going to be great baseball,” McHugh said. “Two of the best teams in the league fighting it out for first place. We know what they’re capable of, they know what we’re capable of. We’ve been playing some good baseball of late. Putting this behind us is what we have to do always.”