odubel herrera

Aaron Altherr's clutch hits lead Phillies to another comeback win over MLB-best Dodgers

Aaron Altherr's clutch hits lead Phillies to another comeback win over MLB-best Dodgers

BOX SCORE

Somewhere in the basement of Citizens Bank Park sits a stash of champagne, chilled and ready to go for a celebration in the visiting clubhouse. It's only a matter of time before the Los Angeles Dodgers clinch their fifth straight National League West crown, but the Phillies would prefer it did not happen in their house.

The Phillies aren't saying that verbally.

They're saying it with their actions.

They've played some of their best and most exciting baseball of the season the last three nights in taking the first three games of a four-game series against the Dodgers. All three of the wins have been come-from-behind efforts. The Phillies set themselves up for a series sweep with a 7-5 win Wednesday night (see observations). The victory included two more big hits from Aaron Altherr and a game-ending catch by centerfielder Odubel Herrera that left you wondering how to say 'Wow!' in Spanish (see video).

Herrera burst into laughter when he was asked that question after the game.

His answer: "Wow!"

Altherr has delivered several Wow! moments in this series. There was his decisive grand slam against Clayton Kershaw in the opener, another home run in Tuesday night's win and four more RBIs on Wednesday night.

Altherr hit a game-tying, two-run home run in the seventh inning on a hanging breaking ball from Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling. Two batters later, Tommy Joseph went deep on another hanger from Stripling as the Phillies took a 5-4 lead.

The Phillies' bullpen has been excellent lately, but it struggled in this game and let leads of 2-1 and 5-4 get away.

But these Phillies aren't just playing out the string. They have young players trying to show they belong and that's creating problems for the 96-win Dodgers. After giving up the lead in the top of the eighth, the Phillies rallied for two runs in the bottom of the frame to take the lead for good. The rally featured a leadoff walk by Cesar Hernandez, a sacrifice bunt by Freddy Galvis, a Dodgers' error, an intentional walk to Rhys Hoskins to load the bases and a two-run line drive hit to right by Altherr to put the Phils ahead.

Altherr, activated less than two weeks ago after a month-long stay on the disabled list, has nine RBIs in the first three games of the series. For the season, he is hitting .281 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs in 97 games. His OPS is .890.

"I'm just seeing the ball really well now. I got my timing back," Altherr said. "It's good when those two things come together. I'm just a lot more relaxed at the plate. I'm driving the ball better.

"I think when I first came back I was probably trying to do too much. You know, just trying to make up for lost time. It wasn't working. I went back to relaxing at the plate and letting the ball come to me and putting a good swing on it."

Altherr's decisive two-run single with one out in the eighth came against right-hander Brandon Morrow. Lefty Luis Avilan started the inning and loaded the bases on an intentional walk to Hoskins one batter before Altherr came up.

"That's part of the game," Altherr said of the intentional walk. "But, obviously, you still want to prove them wrong in thinking I'm an easier out. I just wanted to do the best I could to hit the ball hard somewhere."

Jake Thompson pitched five innings, ran a high pitch count, but exited the game with a lead.

He enjoyed watching from the dugout as his teammates rallied for five runs in their final two at-bats to make it three straight against the Dodgers.

"I think it gives us a huge boost knowing who we're doing it against," Thompson said. "They didn't get that record by a fluke. That team is really, really good. I think it shows how far this team has come this year."

The Phillies are moving in the right direction. At least their record is. They were 29 games under .500 before the All-Star break. Wednesday night's win left them at 32-33 after the break and that means something to a rebuilding team that has put a premium on improvement.

"To win these three games is huge for our confidence," Altherr said. "We know we're a good team. We have a lot of talent on this team. Wins like these help us believe in ourselves even more and help us to believe we can do this in the years to come. We're definitely excited about the future."

The Phillies' three wins in this series have come with Kershaw, Yu Darvish and All-Star lefty Alex Wood on the mound for the Dodgers. Those are three pretty good pitchers. The Phils will face righty Kenta Maeda in the series finale Thursday afternoon. A sweep would be a nice accomplishment. It would ensure that the Dodgers would not pop champagne corks in Philadelphia. And it would also give the Phillies a .500 record after the All-Star break, a little sign of progress as the team's fifth straight losing season winds down.

Phillies' promising signs for future on full display in rout of Marlins

Phillies' promising signs for future on full display in rout of Marlins

BOX SCORE

Pete Mackanin provided an interesting little observation after watching Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins combine to dominate the Miami Marlins in an 8-1 Phillies' victory Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park (see observations).
 
"That game reminded me of when I was here in '09, '10, '11 — good pitching, good hitting, power, good defense," Mackanin said. "Very reminiscent of when I first arrived."
 
Those Phillies teams that Mackanin mentioned were some of the best in franchise history. They were all division winners. One of them was a World Series team. Another won a club record 102 games.
 
Clearly, Mackanin was not saying that this Phillies team was like those Phillies teams. This Phillies team is on a rebuild and will have its hands full avoiding 100 losses.
 
But out of the rubble of this difficult season rises some hopeful signs for the future and they were on display in this game:
 
• Nola has put together a solid season. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball and struck out a career-high 11 to notch the win. His ERA in 25 starts is 3.60.
 
• Odubel Herrera had three hits in the game, including a booming, 424-foot home run to right field. He is batting .371 since June 28.
 
• Nick Williams came up from Triple A on June 30. He had a pair of hits and an RBI, giving him 48 in 66 games with the big club.
 
And then there's that Hoskins guy. He has seemingly provided a highlight every day and he did it again in this game with his third homer in two games. He added a sacrifice fly, a walk and a single.
 
Hoskins, Williams and Nola are all 24. Herrera is 25. Maybe one day they will make up the core of the next championship Phillies team.
 
"Nola had an outstanding performance," Mackanin said. "I was really happy to see Hoskins come out of his two or three at-bat slump of not hitting a home run. Odubel's home run reminded of a grand slam that Ryan Howard hit to the third deck. These guys are really swinging the bats well. It's good to see Williams and Hoskins solidify the middle of the lineup."
 
Hoskins has 17 homers in 33 games in the majors. Before coming up, he hit 29 in 115 games at Triple A. That's 46 on the season.
 
After the game, Hoskins was asked if he ever reaches the point where he surprises himself.
 
"Yeah, I think so," he said. "I had to give a little look into the dugout and just kind of shrug. I don’t know, it’s fun, especially to win a couple in a row the way that we have. It feels good in the clubhouse, it does.
 
"Like I've said before, I’m confident in the ability that I have, I really am. And the work that I’m doing before games is putting me in a situation to be successful once the game starts. I know this is not going to last forever. This is baseball, it’s not going to last forever. I’ve just been lucky enough that I’m able to kind of ride this natural wave for what, almost a month now. I’m just going to try to keep riding it as much as I can."
 
Everybody is talking about Hoskins. Everybody in baseball knows what he's doing. He is hitting .310 with an on-base percentage of .434 and a slugging percentage of .784. He has walked 24 times.
 
"It's pretty amazing," Nola said. "His approach is so good. If he doesn't hit a home run, he gets a hit. If he doesn't get a hit, he walks. He's definitely sparked this offense.
 
"I get texts every now and then like, 'Hoskins is unbelievable.' I'm thinking like, 'Yeah, we all know.' The guy is awesome."
 
Hoskins has even caught the eye of Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' slugger who leads the majors with 54 home runs. They chatted around the first base bag Tuesday night.
 
Did Stanton tell Hoskins to stop stealing his thunder?
 
"No, not at all," Hoskins said with a laugh. "He's got all the thunder in baseball right now. He's chasing history."
 
So what did Stanton tell Hoskins?
 
“Just kind of keep going," Hoskins said. "Obviously the work is going to need to be there for your whole career. He just kind of reiterated that.
 
“It was pretty cool. That guy is obviously a star in this game. Especially with the year that he’s having, to be able to share that with him is pretty cool.”
 
Everyone is sharing in Hoskins' success. The attendance at Citizens Bank Park was just 16,745 on Wednesday night, but the fans loved the show he put on.
 
The manager liked it, too.
 
"Actually, I'm going to get his autograph on a ball today," Mackanin said. "It's really outstanding. It's fun to watch."

Phillies-Marlins observations: Aaron Nola dominates, Rhys Hoskins homers again in win

Phillies-Marlins observations: Aaron Nola dominates, Rhys Hoskins homers again in win

BOX SCORE

It has gotten to the point where it's a surprise if Rhys Hoskins doesn't do something special in a game.

The rookie sensation hit another home run — his third in two games and 17th in 33 games — to help the Phillies beat the Miami Marlins, 8-1, on Wednesday night.
 
Aaron Nola wasn't too shabby, either. He struck out a career-high 11 in finally beating Miami. He had been 0-3 with a 10.67 ERA in three previous starts against Miami this season.
 
• Hoskins' 17th homer, a two-run shot in the fifth, left him just four shy of Tommy Joseph's team-leading 21. With 17 games left, and at his current pace, Hoskins has a good chance to lead this team in homers, a feat that is both remarkable and sad. It would be remarkable because he did not come up until Aug. 10 and will play in no more than 50 games; sad because none of the full-season Phillies showed more power.
 
• In 33 games, Hoskins is hitting .310 with a .434 on-base percentage and a .784 slugging percentage. His three RBIs left him with 37.
 
• Nola was outstanding in holding a lineup that had given him a lot of problems this season to just four hits and a run over seven innings. Nola walked two. His sinker and breaking ball both had excellent movement down in the zone. Three of Nola's 11 strikeouts came against Marcell Ozuna, who had entered the game 6 for 16 with two homers and six RBIs lifetime against him.
 
• The Phillies' bullpen delivered 10 innings of one-run ball in Tuesday night's 15-inning win. This time the workload was a modest two innings, but Adam Morgan and Victor Arano made them scoreless.
 
• J.P. Crawford got his second straight start at second base while Cesar Hernandez was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game. Hernandez likely will be back in the starting lineup Thursday night. With Hernandez out of the lineup, Pete Mackanin used Odubel Herrera in the leadoff hole for the second straight game. Herrera had three hits and scored two runs on Tuesday night. In this game, he doubled and homered. Herrera likes leading off and it shows in his energy the last two games. It's not clear how the Phillies' lineup will shake out in the future, but it's not difficult to imagine Herrera and Crawford at the top. That's some serious on-base percentage and it could offer Hoskins and Williams the chance to collect a lot of RBIs as the Phillies' lineup comes together.
 
• Herrera's home run, a two-run shot in the sixth, was an absolute bomb to right field against Dan Straily. It came off the bat at 104 mph and traveled 424 feet. You could have had your eyes closed and known it was gone by the impressive sound with which it came off the bat.
 
• The Phillies made a roster move before the game, adding pitcher Henderson Alvarez and placing outfielder Daniel Nava on the 60-day disabled list with a back strain. The Phillies will finish the season with a six-man pitching rotation. Alvarez is expected to start on Sunday against Oakland.
 
• Jake Thompson (1-2, 5.23) pitches against Miami right-hander Jose Urena (13-6, 3.61) in the series finale on Thursday night.