'The stage doesn't look too big for' Nick Williams after game-winning grand slam vs. Brewers

'The stage doesn't look too big for' Nick Williams after game-winning grand slam vs. Brewers

BOX SCORE

MILWAUKEE -- The sample size isn't very big — just 13 games — but Nick Williams is quickly making an impression.

The 23-year-old outfielder had two hits Sunday afternoon, including his first career grand slam which proved to be the deciding factor in the Phillies' 5-2 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park (see Instant Replay)

That boosted his average to .279, nearly matching the .280 mark he posted in 78 games earlier this season at Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he hit 15 home runs with 44 RBIs.

"He's been playing very aggressively," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He has some things he has to change with his swing, some holes like everybody else, but I like the way that he's playing. I'm happy with him so far."

That aggressiveness paid off in a big way Sunday.

The Phillies watched a 1-0 lead disappear an inning earlier when Brewers rookie Brett Phillips tagged Jeremy Hellickson for a two-run home run — the first of his career.

The Phillies opened the sixth with three straight singles off Rob Scahill, and with the left-handed-hitting Williams due up, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell called on lefty Tyler Webb, who had yet to throw a pitch since being acquired in an All-Star break trade with the Yankees and only had six big league appearances under his belt before that.

But Williams was familiar with Webb from their time in Triple A and had an idea of what to expect. 

“I watched a couple of clips of him pitching and said, ‘Wait I think I faced this guy. A couple of weeks ago actually,'" Williams said. "In that situation, bases loaded I was thinking even if you hit the ball on the ground, get something going because we were down one run.”

Webb's first offering was a slider, right down the middle and Williams got all of it, putting the Phillies ahead.

“I don’t think I had a lot of success against him last year, but I remember I faced him this year," Williams said. "He threw me a first-pitch slider and I hit a homer. I remembered that. First pitch again, slider and another homer.

"It’s crazy.”

Williams' grand slam wasn't a cheap shot in a hitter-friendly yard, either, but rather a no-doubt-about-it blast that traveled an estimated 411 feet to left-center, one of the deepest parts of Miller Park. 

The distance was impressive but not nearly as much as the approach. 

“It was a mistake and he jumped all over it first pitch instead of taking it," Mackanin said. "Bases loaded, you’ve got to be ready for a mistake first pitch and he was.”

Acquired from Texas in a 2015 deadline deal that shipped Cole Hamels to the Rangers — the same deal that brought back Monday's starter Jerad Eickhoff — Williams struggled at times in the minor leagues and was even benched twice last season for failing to run hard.

There's been no issue with his hustle this season, Mackanin said. 

"Players have to self-motivate," Mackanin said. "That's the kind of guys we're looking for that you don't have to motivate. They motivate themselves. Hopefully, he's one of those guys.

"The test will be three, four years down the road, if and when he has some success that he continues to play like that and not fall into that trap."

And with the Phillies in rebuilding mode, Williams is starting to look like one of the players who could make up the nucleus of the next generation of winners.

Jeremy Hellickson tossed five innings of two-run ball but left early with an apparent calf injury. The righty said he is fine and expects to make his next start.

"He looks good," Hellickson said of Williams. "The stage doesn't look too big for him."

Scott Kingery punctuates breakout year with Minor League Gold Glove

kingery-slide.jpg

Scott Kingery punctuates breakout year with Minor League Gold Glove

A day after being honored at Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies' top minor-league position player of 2017, Scott Kingery on Tuesday won a minor-league Gold Glove award.

Kingery converted 98.9 percent of his defensive chances at second base this season, committing just six errors in 529 opportunities. 

The award punctuates an extremely impressive all-around season from the 23-year-old Kingery, who spent half the season with Double A Reading and the other half with Triple A Lehigh Valley. He hit .304/.359/.530 over 603 plate appearances with 29 doubles, 8 triples, 26 homers, 65 RBIs, 103 runs and 29 steals in 34 attempts.

Kingery isn't far away from the majors, but as you've likely read or heard, the Phillies will gain an extra year of team control if they keep him in the minors until mid-late May in 2018. The Phils went a similar route with Maikel Franco in 2015, keeping him in the minors until May 15.

Of Kingery's 132 starts this season, 112 came at second base. He also started four games at third base and two at shortstop at Triple A as the Phillies sought more positional flexibility.

When Kingery eventually arrives in the majors, it could come at the expense of Franco, who just hasn't hit enough to stave off high-upside players like Kingery and J.P. Crawford. Defensively, Crawford has acquitted himself well so far at third base in the majors.

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.