Phillies-Athletics thoughts: Facing a poor man's Rhys Hoskins

Phillies-Athletics thoughts: Facing a poor man's Rhys Hoskins

Phillies (57-90) vs. Athletics (65-82)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies' three-game winning streak came to an abrupt end on Friday night. Daniel Mengden and the Athletics took down the Phils in a 4-0 game as J.P. Crawford was the only hitter to reach base. 

Looking to get back in the win column, the Phillies toss out Ben Lively against Kendall Graveman on Saturday night. Here are some thoughts to ponder before first pitch:

• This isn't very revolutionary, but it usually helps to have more than two hits. After pulverizing the Marlins for three nights with hit after hit, coming up with just two hits against a team that came in with a 4.81 team ERA is embarrassing. The Phillies have been outscored plenty of times this year (90 times to be exact), but this type of game has been the exception and not the rule, especially since Rhys Hoskins came along.

• Speaking of Hoskins, there isn't too much to say about him that hasn't already been said about Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger this year and Mark McGwire 30 years ago. Guys just don't come into the league mashing like this. 

Perhaps the best stat to show Hoskins' ridiculous start is his line against left-handed pitching: In 37 plate appearances, he's gone 6 for 25 with 11 walks, 1 HBP and just five strikeouts. Oh yeah, all six hits are home runs. That means he's gone 0 for 14 on balls in play but still has an OPS of 1.446. That's ... unreal. 

• It gets lost in the Hoskins-mania but Nick Williams has been quite good as well. His walk and strikeout rates are both slightly better than his Triple-A numbers and he's hitting .296/.350/.496. He certainly strikes out more than Hoskins and hits fewer home runs, but he's still an exciting young player on this roster. 

He's had issues in the outfield, but that's mostly occurred when he's played out of position in centerfield. Put him in right and he should be fine moving forward. 

• Lively has been a throwback to pitchers of old this year. As strikeouts become the name of the game, a guy who fans only 14.4 percent of batters and relies on balls in play, particularly plenty of flyballs, tend to be phased out. But as he did at the minor league level, he's induced plenty of weak content, keeping a lot of pop-ups near the infield.

He's given the Phillies length in nearly every outing and has given them a chance to win outside of a poor start against the defending champion Cubs. His last time out, the 25-year-old righty held a potent Nationals lineup to just three runs in eight innings while striking out seven, one shy of his career-best. 

• Graveman joined the Athletics in the ill-conceived trade that sent Josh Donaldson to Toronto. He's been a fairly average starter for the Athletics. Like Lively, he allows a lot of balls in play but has still been fairly successful. How? The opposite way of Lively: Plenty of groundballs. 

He keeps the ball on the ground with a heavy dose of his 94-mph sinker while also turning to a cutter, curveball and changeup. He's never faced the Phillies before and only Hyun Soo Kim (1 for 3) has faced him before. The Phils have to hope they'll have more success against this unknown for them than they did with his rotation mate on Friday.

• While Mengden and his mustache were the story on Friday, Matt Olson also gave the Phillies a dose of what he's been doing in recent weeks. The rookie has essentially been a left-handed poor man's Rhys Hoskins, drilling 19 home runs in 184 PAs. 

His stance starts with his hands and bat essentially over home plate and somehow he makes it work with a non-absurd strikeout rate considering the amount of movement in his swing. He's gotten zero attention because he's in Oakland and comes after Hoskins, Bellinger and Judge already lit the majors on fire in their first taste. It's no longer that insane to see a player do this in their first sample of the majors.

• After Friday night, the A's have now won seven of nine and are playing some of their best baseball. They aren't a good team, as their record would suggest, but their offense is showing some life recently, particularly since Olson started to take off.  

• Their bullpen is still very beatable. Santiago Casilla was removed from the closer role for a reason. Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle were both traded to Washington. And new closer Blake Treinen throws an upper-90s sinker that makes teams fawn over his potential, but he still has blown three saves in 10 opportunities.

• Before this series, the Phillies last played the A's in 2014, losing two of three in Oakland that September. The Phils are 7-9 vs. the Athletics all-time. The two teams, of course, used to share Philadelphia before the A's moved to Kansas City in 1955. 

Tonight's lineup: Freddy Galvis returns to shortstop; J.P. Crawford gets day off

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CSN

Tonight's lineup: Freddy Galvis returns to shortstop; J.P. Crawford gets day off

After coming off the bench for the first time all season, Freddy Galvis is back at his natural position Saturday.

Galvis will start at shortstop while prospect J.P. Crawford will head to the bench for a day off as the Phillies play the Nationals Saturday night (7:05/CSN and CSNPhilly.com). Galvis started the first 140 games of the season before pinch hitting Friday while Crawford played short, which was his primary position in the minor leagues.

Galvis, who hopes to win his first Gold Glove this season, had stated his goal to start all 162 games. He started one game in centerfield at the end of August but has played the outfield only one time since. 

Crawford, meanwhile, has started three games at third base and now one at shortstop since getting called up at the beginning of the week. The 22-year-old infielder earned the call-up with a strong final few months in Triple A, overcoming his early season struggles.

Rhys Hoskins will make his second straight start at first base. While he's mostly played left field since joining the Phils, he is a first baseman by trade. He hit his 13th home run Friday night and picked up his third multi-hit game of the month.

On the mound, the Phillies will have Mark Leiter Jr. facing veteran righty Edwin Jackson. Both starters had their worst starts of the season in their last time out, so they're both hoping for a bounce-back performance. For more on the pitchers, check out today's game notes.

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Jackson:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Odubel Herrera, CF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Hyun Soo Kim, LF
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Mark Leiter Jr., P

And here's the Nationals lineup that will face Leiter:

1. Trea Turner, SS
2. Howie Kendrick, LF
3. Daniel Murphy, 2B
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
5. Anthony Rendon, 3B
6. Michael Taylor, CF
7. Alejandro De Aza, RF
8. Raudy Read, C
9. Edwin Jackson, P

Phillies-Nationals thoughts: Mark Leiter Jr. faces playoff-ready lineup

Phillies-Nationals thoughts: Mark Leiter Jr. faces playoff-ready lineup

Phillies (53-88) at Nationals (87-54)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies lost their third straight game Friday night in an 11-10 defeat highlighted by a key Odubel Herrera miscue in the field and a spirited comeback attempt against the Nationals' bullpen (see story). In Game 3 of the Phils' four-game set with the Nationals, Mark Leiter Jr. will take the mound Saturday against journeyman RHP Edwin Jackson. Here are some thoughts.

• The Phillies have had some embarrassing moments during this losing-filled season, but Herrera's play in the third inning may have taken the cake. He completely misplayed a ball in center field to give the Nationals an inside-the-park grand slam (see video).

It's certainly not the first inside-the-parker the Phillies have given up this season, but it was just a case in which Herrera did everything you can't do in that situation. He went in right away, hesitating before realizing that his only chance left would be to leap, and then missing the ball, which quickly rolled to the wall. It was not what the Phils need to see from their one player locked up long term.

• As for the positives from the defeat, there are a couple of pretty obvious ones. Nick Williams drilled a three-run homer as part of a four-hit night. But as usual, the steady rookie could be overlooked because Rhys Hoskins continues to mash.

Before he picked up his two hits, he took Max Scherzer on a ride with a 13-pitch at-bat before striking out. That's not something you see out of a typical player a month into his MLB career.

And then he hit his 13th home run. Oliver Perez shouldn't be facing Hoskins, but the Nationals had a six-run lead, so they stuck with their lefty specialist and paid with a three-run shot that cut their lead in half. 

• Onto tonight's pitching matchup, Leiter had the worst start of his career last time out. He was just two starts removed from seven innings of one-hit ball against the Miami Marlins and had a 3.52 ERA over his previous 46 innings before facing the Mets on Monday at Citi Field.

Lasting just 10 outs, Leiter gave up nine runs, eight earned, on nine hits as the Mets plastered him. He allowed two home runs after 13 2/3 innings of homer-less ball in his last two starts. Facing the same team 25 days earlier, he held them to one run in five innings while striking out seven. 

The 26-year-old righty threw two scoreless innings against the Nationals earlier this season but has yet to start against the division rival. 

• Jackson has been in the big leagues since 2003, when he broke in the majors as a 19-year-old starter for the Dodgers. In 15 big-league seasons, he's played for 12 different teams, including multiple stints with the Nationals. He earned an All-Star appearance in 2009 and has been traded six different times.

This season, he started with the Baltimore Orioles' Triple A affiliate and made it to the majors. After appearing out of their bullpen and allowing seven runs (four earned) in five innings, he was designated for assignment and soon picked up by the Nationals.

And surprisingly enough, he's been pretty good. In nine starts, he's pitched to a 3.29 ERA in 54 2/3 innings. He toned down his walk rate while not allowing the plethora of hits that have plagued him in recent seasons. His 1.8 homers per nine is his worst rate since his second season. He doesn't strike out too many batters, fanning 40 in his time with the Nationals.

He's coming off a lackluster outing against the Brewers. In 5 2/3 innings, the righty allowed two home runs, leading to five runs (four earned). The five runs were the most he's allowed this season.

• The Phillies are now 5-9 against the Nationals this season despite outscoring them, 73-69, in the 14 games. A lot of that is because of a 17-3 win in April, but the Phillies have also played the Nats tough. Eight of the nine losses have been by two or fewer runs. 

• On Friday, the Nationals gave a glimpse at both how they can be dangerous in the postseason and why they might be a quick out. 

How they can be dangerous is simple: The offense. With Trea Turner healthy, they now add his speed and hitting (three hits, including a double and a home run Friday) to the powerful trio of Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon in the middle of the order. Howie Kendrick has also continued to tear the cover off the ball in Washington. It's not hard to imagine that offense breaking through against strong pitching staffs in October.

But their pitching staff is a question mark. Sure, they won despite Scherzer having an off outing. But Scherzer being off is something they can't afford next month. It's part of how they lost Game 5 of the NLDS last year. And the bullpen behind him simply can't be trusted. Perez won't be facing powerful righties like Hoskins, but they don't have a fearsome back end. Shawn Kelley, who they hoped would be a high-leverage option this season, allowed three runs without getting an out Friday and now has a 7.99 ERA.

• You'll notice that I didn't mention Bryce Harper in their bevy of offensive threats. His return from injury could decide the Nats' fate and whether they can finally win a postseason series. His presence further extends that lineup and he's the type of talent that can win you a series by himself. If he doesn't come back, the Nationals may not have the offense to outslug the similarly stout Cubs. 

• Back to the Phillies, Freddy Galvis not starting on Friday shouldn't necessarily be a surprise but it is an important statement. With his lineup card, Pete Mackanin announced that the team would be prioritizing J.P. Crawford's development. As they should. They need to see Crawford man short in the big leagues so they can determine their plans at the position moving forward (see story).

That doesn't mean Galvis should be shoved off the position, but the team needs to see Crawford in action, plain and simple. This month isn't about wins and losses and the team needs to instead look towards development.

• Triple A Lehigh Valley lost, 4-2, in Game 2 of its five-game playoff series with Scranton Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees' affiliate. The teams are tied 1-1 through two games.

Scott Kingery went 1 for 4 with a walk while Brock Stassi 1 for 3 with an RBI and a walk. Dylan Cozens was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Coming in as a reliever, Mark Appel threw a scoreless inning despite walking three batters.