Some October moments live forever. Michael Harris II might have given Braves fans one of those moments on Monday night.
With a 5-4 lead hanging in the balance in the top of the ninth inning, Michael Harris went all the way to the warning track to catch a 392-foot blast by Nick Castellanos, going up for the ball and remarkably coming down with it.
He had no time to celebrate the grab, as Bryce Harper was frantically trying to get back to first base. He didn’t tag up when the ball was hit, assuming it would fall for a home run or into the field of play. Austin Riley picked up Harris’ throw to the infield and got the ball to Matt Olson just in time to double up Harper.
It was a thrilling finish to a potentially season-changing comeback, which started when an error by Trea Turner allowed Ronald Acuna Jr. to score the Braves’ first run of the game in the sixth inning. Atlanta didn’t even register a hit off of Phillies ace Zack Wheeler until that moment.
— MLB (@MLB) October 10, 2023
Two-run home runs by Travis d’Arnaud and Austin Riley ignited Truist Park pushed the Braves in front, and Harris’ catch preserved the slim lead.
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With Harper running, there’s no doubt he would have scored the tying run if the ball landed. According to Baseball Savant, Castellanos’ blast had an expected batting average of .610 and would have been a home run in five major-league ballparks.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson acknowledged that Harper probably should have waited to see if Harris caught the ball before taking off, telling reporters, “Usually you don’t pass the base. You stay in front of it, make sure it’s not caught.” Still he called the catch “unbelievable.”
Harris is only 22 years old, but Braves starter Max Fried was among teammates who weren’t at all surprised by the reigning NL Rookie of the Year rising to the occasion.
#Braves’ Max Fried on Michael Harris II’s spectacular game-ending play: “I wouldn’t expect anything less from him, and that’s the ultimate compliment.”
— David O’Brien (@DOBrienATL) October 10, 2023
For as lifeless as the Braves looked through the first 14 innings of the series, it appears all of the momentum has suddenly shifted to Atlanta. Whether the vaunted Citizens Bank Park crowd can halt that momentum will be the dominant storyline entering Wednesday’s Game 3.