Moment No. 3: Craig Kimbrel vs. Ronald Acuña Jr.
Fast forward to Game 4. The Phillies, up 2-1 in the series, were clinging to a 3-1 lead in the top of the seventh. Manager Rob Thomson called on veteran reliever and long-time closer Craig Kimbrel to bail out José Alvarado, who had walked two straight Braves with two out.
Kimbrel promptly walked Travis d'Arnaud to load the bases and bring up Ronald Acuña Jr.
In a game full of tense moments, this was perhaps the biggest, most unsettling moment of them all. Not only the situation but the parties involved made it feel like the pivotal at-bat of the game, perhaps the series.
On one side you had Kimbrel, with 14 years of experience and 417 career saves in 780 appearances. A future Hall of Famer, the 35-year-old Kimbrel was trying to help eliminate the very team he spent five seasons with, cutting his teeth as a preeminent major league closer.
On the other side, Acuña Jr., on an early track for a Hall of Fame career. The tooled-up 25-year-old superstar had taken the league by storm. In his first full, healthy season since 2019, he realized the full potential of his talent, hitting .337, swatting 41 home runs and stealing 73 bags.
But after a dominant regular season, Acuña had been a non-factor in the series, floundering with two hits in 13 at-bats for a .154 average before facing Kimbrel.
And yet here Acuña stood, with the game on his bat, with a chance to make his mark and rescue his team from the brink of elimination. It felt precarious for the Phillies, even with Kimbrel on the mound. At some point, the young superstar slugger was going to break out and have his moment of glory and start to build his legacy. Right?
With the game hanging in the balance, Kimbrel took the count to 2-2 before Acuna got a hold of a fastball, sending a fly ball to deep left center.
Kimbrel froze for a split second after the ball left Acuña's bat, unsure if he should turn around to watch. When he did, he saw his rookie center fielder, Johan Rojas, make a somewhat tentative catch on the warning track. But a catch it was, nonetheless.
In his pressure-filled moment, the veteran won the battle for the seventh inning, the game ... and the series.