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Nick Castellanos’s two-run double revs Phillies’ offence in 9-4 win over Blue Jays

TORONTO — Nick Castellanos’s two-run double gave Philadelphia the lead and the Phillies never looked back in a 9-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday.

Jake Cave had a solo homer and a sacrifice fly as Philadelphia (66-55) snapped a three-game skid. Bryce Harper homered twice, Alec Bohm had an RBI single, and Kyle Schwarber’s sac fly added a run.

Aaron Nola (10-8) struck out seven over five innings, giving up four runs on four hits and four walks. Relievers Matt Strahm, Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto preserved Nola’s win.

Daulton Varsho’s two-run homer in the second inning gave Toronto (67-55) a short-lived lead. Cavan Biggio added a two-run single.

Kevin Gausman (9-7) allowed seven runs — five earned — on seven hits and three walks. He struck out four.

Tim Mayza, Erik Swanson, Jay Jackson, Genesis Cabrera and Bowden Francis came out of Toronto’s bullpen.

Back-to-back doubles made it look like Philadelphia could blow the game wide open in the second but Blue Jays left-fielder Whit Merrifield’s heads-up defence limited the damage in the inning.

Castellanos led off with a double down the third-base line that stayed fair to start the frame, then Bryson Stott bounced a hit off the left-field wall to potentially score him. But Merrifield caught Stott’s hit off the wall barehanded and fired it to second as Stott narrowly avoided the tag. The quick play also held Castellanos to third.

Gausman walked Trea Turner to load the bases but struck out J.T. Realmuto. Cave then hit his sacrifice fly to shallow left that Merrifield caught on a sprint, again rifling the ball to the infield to hold the runners and limit the runs to just Castellanos.

Varsho replied for the Blue Jays in the bottom of the inning. He looped a 93.2 m.p.h. four-seam fastball from Nola into the Phillies bullpen for his 15th homer of the season. It also scored Biggio, who had reached base on a single to shallow centre field, for a 2-1 Toronto lead.

Harper tied it in the third, launching an 87.3 m.p.h. splitter from Gausman 412 feet to centre field. Varsho climbed the wall as he tracked it down but Harper’s eighth homer of the season was well out of the Blue Jays outfielder’s reach.

Biggio re-established Toronto’s lead in the bottom of the inning when his bouncing single to deep right field scored Brandon Belt and George Springer. The hit brought his RBI total up to 25 and gave the Blue Jays a 4-2 advantage.

Castellanos pulled Philadelphia to within a run in the fifth inning when he doubled off the wall. As Merrifield played the ball, Schwarber ran home to make it 4-3.

It looked like Stott had ground out to end the inning in the next at bat but Toronto third baseman Santiago Espinal missed the target and bounced the ball past the outstretched glove of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first. Harper and Castellanos took advantage of the throwing error to give the Phillies a 5-4 lead.

Philadelphia manufactured two more runs in the sixth. Schwarber’s sacrifice fly to deep right field scored Realmuto and then Bohm singled to right to bring home Cave.

Cave wasn’t done, however. He led off the eighth with his third home run of the season, taking a 94.2 m.p.h. four-seamer from Jackson over the right-centre wall for an 8-4 Phillies lead.

Harper homered for a second time in the ninth, leading the inning off with a 404-foot bomb to right field. It came off of a 74 m.p.h. curveball from Francis.

BICHETTE BISONS — Bo Bichette went 2 for 3 as the designated hitter for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons on Wednesday. He’ll play shortstop for the minor-league club on Thursday and, if all goes well, he’ll be activated from the Blue Jays injured list on Friday.

CAVALRY IS COMING — Relievers Trevor Richards and Chad Green are also close to returning to Toronto’s bullpen. Richards threw an inning for Buffalo on Wednesday and Green pitched 1 1/3 inning. Blue Jays manager John Schneider said that both could join the big club as soon as Friday.

ON DECK — The Blue Jays have Thursday off before travelling to Cincinnati to face the Reds in a three-game interleague series.

Philadelphia also has Thursday off to travel to Washington to take on the Nationals, its National League East rivals.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2023.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press