Despite buzz about promotion, Phillies prospect Scott Kingery remains calm

Despite buzz about promotion, Phillies prospect Scott Kingery remains calm

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — One look around spacious Coca-Cola Park told Scott Kingery one thing: This wasn’t Reading anymore, Toto.

“It looks like you can get one out to left,” the newest member of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs said late Monday afternoon, “but it looks real deep to center.”

It was time for the 23-year-old second baseman to recalibrate, time for one of the Phillies’ brightest prospects to get his bearings before continuing a climb that now finds him nearing the major-league summit.

Kingery, the Phils’ second-round pick in 2015, was promoted from Double A Reading on Sunday, after his torrid start attracted the attention of not only management but also a fanbase looking to latch onto something — anything — with the parent club struggling and regular second baseman Cesar Hernandez injured.

But everything in its time.

“I just try to block [the clamor] out the best I can,” Kingery said before making his Triple A debut against Pawtucket. “I know what I'm capable of and I know what I need to improve on. Wherever I'm at, I'm going to come out here and try to work on whatever I think I need to improve on and to give myself the best shot to get moved up.”

He went 1 for 5 with a steal and two spectacular defensive plays in the IronPigs’ 5-4, 10-inning loss on Monday night, after batting .313 with 18 homers and 44 RBIs in 69 games at Reading. And his one-day-at-a-time approach comes as no surprise to manager Dusty Wathan, who also had him late last season with the Fightin Phils.

“He’s a guy that doesn’t change much,” Wathan said. “He’s really calm — not real high, not real low, much like (Lehigh Valley first baseman) Rhys Hoskins is.”

Wathan recalled Kingery’s struggles late last season — he wound up hitting .250 in 37 games for Reading, after moving up from Single A Clearwater — and how he handled it.

“You didn’t see the huge frustration or anything like that out of him,” the manager said. “I think he just embraced it and said this is what it is: ‘I’m a better player than this.’ He knew where he was at that time.”

Kingery was worn to a frazzle by season’s end — he lost 10 pounds, he said — and Wathan knew it. He nonetheless continued to play him “because,” the manager said, “I wanted him to feel that.”

“It's a good thing to have failure,” he added, “to feel that first season, to see how things end up for you.”

Kingery, listed at 5-10 and 180 pounds, said he gained back the 10 pounds he lost via offseason weight work, and that he tinkered with his swing as well. That contributed to his power surge after he managed just eight homers in 197 games over his first two minor-league seasons.

So too did the dimensions of FirstEnergy Stadium, Reading’s cozy home park.

“Everybody talks about the Reading factor, but to me it's probably only a couple home runs [each season],” Wathan said.

Kingery had 10 homers in 36 home games and eight in 33 on the road. He hit just one in his last 20 games at Reading, none in his last 11.

“I’m turning back into a singles guy,” he said.

But a hitter, to be sure. He batted .359 in his last 33 games at Double A to raise his average from .272 to .313. And on Sunday, he was summoned to the office of Reading manager Greg Legg, who delivered the good news.
 
Kingery’s dad, Tom, had already heard; he tried to call his son repeatedly. So too had some other relatives.

So there he was on Monday. He singled in his first at-bat, and twice victimized Pawtucket third baseman Matt Dominguez with the glove, making a diving catch of his second-inning flare to short right and then backhanding Dominguez’s grounder up the middle in the sixth.

The first gem made SportsCenter. As for Kingery, he just keeps making steady progress toward the summit.

Rhys Hoskins' epic at-bat finishes in heroics as Phillies knock off Dodgers again

Rhys Hoskins' epic at-bat finishes in heroics as Phillies knock off Dodgers again

BOX SCORE

The attendance at Citizens Bank Park for Tuesday night's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers was just 20,145.

Years from now, it will be quadruple that.

Everyone will say they were there the night Rhys Hoskins went toe-to-toe with Pedro Baez's high-octane fastball and delivered the big hit that helped lift the Phillies to an emotional 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers (see observations).

Hoskins, the Phillies' rookie sensation, had four RBIs in the game, all of them coming on full-count hits in the sixth and seventh innings.

He got the Phillies on the board with an RBI single against Dodgers starter Yu Darvish in sixth inning.

Then, with two outs in the seventh, he lashed a tie-breaking, three-run double to left-center, capping an intense, 10-pitch at-bat in which he saw 10 straight fastballs from Baez. Every pitch in the at-bat ranged from 96 to 98 miles per hour. Hoskins fouled off four straight full-count fastballs before delivering the bases-clearing double.

Hoskins has electrified the Phillies with 18 home runs in a little more than a month, but his reaction to the go-ahead double suggested it might have ranked No. 1 on his personal hit chart. When he reached second base, he raised his arms and pointed euphorically at the dugout, where his teammates were going wild.

"Big situation against a pretty good team," a calmer Hoskins said afterward. "I think the 10-pitch at-bat probably had something to do with it.

"Obviously, the guy throws pretty hard, so he likes his fastball. He made some good pitches, too, with good strikes, not really anything in the middle of the plate. I was just lucky enough to put a good swing on the last one."

The Dodgers aren't just a pretty good team, as Hoskins described them. They are the best team in baseball. The Phillies have the second-worst record in the game. But the Phils have managed to beat the Dodgers two nights in a row — with two of the top pitchers in the game on the mound. The Phils beat three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw on Monday night. Darvish took a no-decision in Tuesday night's game.

Hoskins has played a big role in both wins. He drew a two-out walk against Kershaw in the sixth inning of Monday night's win to extend the inning for Aaron Altherr. Altherr clubbed a decisive grand slam.

Tuesday night's four-RBI performance left Hoskins with 43 in 39 games. Only Albert Pujols had more RBIs (44) in the first 39 games of his career. Joe DiMaggio had 42 RBIs in his first 39 games.

Hoskins' plate discipline and selectivity are already stuff of legend. He saw 30 pitches in four trips to the plate.

"The longer I’m in there, the more pitches I see, the more comfortable I start to feel," he said. "I’m kind of able to hone in on the timing, which is pretty important for me. The more you see it, the more you know what it looks like, the more comfortable you get."

Manager Pete Mackanin marveled at Hoskins' ability to work pitchers into fastball counts.

"He’s not going to get himself out," Mackanin said. "He’s not going to expand the strike zone, which makes him a good hitter. I’m glad we have him. I always think he’s going to do something special the deeper he goes into the count."

Aaron Nola was grateful for Hoskins' big hit in the seventh inning. It made him a winner.

"He was fouling balls off at his neck," said Nola, describing Hoskins' showdown with Baez. "So you get a ball a little bit lower, you knew he was going to time it up finally. He saw 30 pitches in the game. It was just a matter of time that he was going to make them pay for it and he did."

The Phillies are 18-14 at home since the All-Star break. They were once on a collision course for 100 losses. Now they need to win just three of their final 11 games to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961.

The Dodgers came into Tuesday night's game with a magic number of three to wrap up the NL West title. They will be in Philadelphia for two more days. The Phillies will continue to try to prevent champagne from being sprayed in their ballpark.

"Experience-wise for some of us young guys, this is pretty invaluable," Hoskins said of the competitive atmosphere. "They’re still trying to clinch their division, so it’s just good baseball."

So good that more than 20,145 will say they were there someday.

Best of MLB: Cubs top Rays in Joe Maddon's return to Tampa, push win streak to 7

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Best of MLB: Cubs top Rays in Joe Maddon's return to Tampa, push win streak to 7

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Mike Montgomery took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning, Kyle Schwarber hit his 28th home run and the Chicago Cubs extended their winning streak to a season-high seven by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 Tuesday in manager Joe Maddon's return to Tropicana Field.

Maddon managed the Rays from 2006-14, then left to manage Chicago and last year led the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908. Chicago entered with a 3 -game lead over second-place Milwaukee in the NL Central.

A crowd of 25,046, the largest at the Trop since opening day, gave Maddon a standing ovation in the middle of the first inning.

"I thought it was a quick nine years," he said of his time with the Rays. "I try to stay in the present tense, but that was a fast nine years and I have nothing but warm and fuzzies about it."

Montgomery (7-8) allowed one hit in six innings, a one-out homer in the sixth by Brad Miller. Montgomery struck out six, walked one and hit his first batter, Kevin Kiermaier.

Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Wade Davis each followed with an inning of perfect relief to complete the one-hitter. Davis struck out the side and remained perfect in 32 save chances.

Schwarber homered in the second and Javier Baez hit an RBI double in the fifth against Chris Archer (9-11), who gave up four hits in six innings. Archer struck out six, riaising his total to 241 -- 11 shy of the team record he set two years ago. He is 2-6 in his last 14 starts (see full recap).

Brewers hold off Pirates to keep pace in NL Central
PITTSBURGH -- Chase Anderson had eight strikeouts in six innings, Domingo Santana homered and the Milwaukee Brewers shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second straight day, 1-0 on Tuesday night.

The Brewers won for the ninth time in 11 games, keeping pace in the NL Central and wild-card races. They won for the fourth time in the past seven days against reeling Pittsburgh, which has lost a season-high seven consecutive games and 12 of 13.

It was the 12th shutout of the season for the Brewers, tied for the second-most in the NL.

Anderson (11-3) allowed five singles. Anthony Swarzak retired six of the seven batters he faced, and Corey Knebel earned a save with a perfect ninth. Seven of his 39 saves this season have come against the Pirates (see full recap).

Wild pitch in extras sends Red Sox past Orioles
BALTIMORE -- Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and the Boston Red Sox used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles' bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games.

With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw (see full recap).

MLB season home run record set in Blue Jays' win over Royals
TORONTO -- Marcus Stroman pitched seven innings to win for the first time in six starts, Darwin Barney hit a two-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Kansas City Royals 5-2 on Tuesday night.

Kansas City outfielder Alex Gordon's solo home run off Ryan Tepera in the eighth was the 5,694th of this major league season, breaking the record set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era. The record was broken with just less than two weeks remaining in the regular season.

There were 5,610 homers last year, an average of 2.31 per game, and this year's average of 2.53 entering Tuesday projects to 6,139. That would be up 47 percent from 4,186 in 2014.

Barney went 2 for 3 with three RBIs as the Blue Jays opened their final homestand on a winning note.

Stroman (12-8) allowed one run and four hits for his first victory since Aug. 16 against Tampa Bay (see full recap).