Castellanos homers, Sánchez Ks 10 as Phillies move to brink of playoff spot with 5-2 win over Mets

Philadelphia Phillies' Bryce Harper reacts after hitting a run-scoring single against New York Mets pitcher Grant Hartwig during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nick Castellanos hit his 29th homer to move the Philadelphia Phillies within one win of a National League playoff berth after a 5-2 victory Sunday night, completing a four-game sweep over the New York Mets.

The win was a bright spot in what the Phillies hoped would be a much more joyous day.

Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and the rest of the Phillies walked into the clubhouse with tarp rolled and pinned over their lockers and bottles of bubbly on standby waiting to get popped.

All the Phillies really needed was some cooperation.

The beer baths were momentarily on hold, even after Cristopher Sánchez (3-5) struck out 10 in seven innings, as wins earlier in the day by the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins meant a potential NL wild-card clinch had to wait at least one more game.

Michael Lorenzen, rocked since he pitched a no-hitter in August, tossed a scoreless ninth for his first save.

The NL champion Phillies will try to wrap up a second straight playoff berth when they send Aaron Nola (12-9, 4.57 ERA) to the mound Tuesday against Pittsburgh at Citizens Bank Park.

Yes, the site of NL Division Series and NLCS clinchers a year ago, back when the Phillies were the last team to earn a playoff spot and parlayed that into a home run-heavy run into November.

A loss by the Marlins or Cubs on Tuesday would also secure a wild card for Philadelphia.

A year ago, the Phillies ended the longest playoff drought in the National League. This season’s team overcame a sluggish start — just 26-32 on June 3 — to make a run at the top wild card. The Phillies are poised to earn that spot this week and then host a playoff series.

Why wait until the postseason? Let the partying begin once the wild card is clinched.

“I think it’s difficult to get in the playoffs,” manager Rob Thomson said ahead of Sunday’s game. “So you need to celebrate that.”

Thomson has in his office several framed newspapers with bold headlines celebrating last season’s postseason run. One Philadelphia Daily News headline read “Let It Reign.”

On a gloomy Sunday in Philly, it rained so much that first pitch was pushed back five hours.

But it was impossible to dampen Philadelphia’s enthusiasm for the inevitable this week, what should be the team’s first clinch of a postseason spot at Citizens Bank Park since Sept. 18, 2011, when the Phillies won their fifth straight NL East title.

“When you start spring training, start planning in the winter, this is where you kind of want to be,” Thomson said. “You can smell it. You can feel it. That makes it fun.”

The Phillies stayed loose in the clubhouse as they waited out first pitch.

Several of them shot baskets from various X’s marked on the carpet while Realmuto, Harper and Bryson Stott sat on a sofa watching sports. Three TVs on the NFL — one, of most interest — on the Marlins-Brewers game.

“The anticipation, you can definitely feel it,” reliever Matt Strahm said. “You’re excited for it but there’s still some work to do.”

The Phillies got to work early against the Mets.

Realmuto had a two-run single off starter José Butto (2-2) in the fourth and Castellanos followed the same inning with a two-run shot to left field that sent the Phillies on their way to their fifth straight win. Harper added an RBI single in the fifth.


The Mets didn’t have a baserunner until the fifth. Butto did strike out five but threw 86 pitches over four innings.

Ronny Mauricio hit his second major league homer, a two-run shot in the sixth.


Phillies reliever Orion Kerkering struck out two in a scoreless eighth in his big league debut.

The 22-year-old Kerkering said before the game he was “antsy” to pitch after he was called up Friday. Kerkering went 4-1 with 14 saves and a 1.51 ERA across 49 relief appearances with four different minor league teams this season.


The Mets send LHP Joey Lucchesi (3-0, 2.88 ERA) to the mound against Miami LHP Braxton Garrett (9-6, 3.53 ERA) when they open a three-game series Tuesday in New York.

The Phillies will try to clinch against Pirates RHP Mitch Keller (13-9, 4.25 ERA) in the start of a three-game series.


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