pete mackanin

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

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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.

Rhys Hoskins scuffles as Phillies drop series to Athletics

Rhys Hoskins scuffles as Phillies drop series to Athletics

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Turns out, Rhys Hoskins is human after all. 

After a torrid series against Miami that prompted teammate Nick Williams to declare the rookie sensation “an alien,” Hoskins showed he’s susceptible to the bad stretches that all major league hitters go through. 

A weekend that matched two of the hottest rookie sluggers in the game ended up one-sided, as Oakland’s Matt Olson homered for the third straight day and the Athletics took the rubber game of the three-game series, 6-3, Sunday with the help of former West Chester University star Joey Wendle’s grand slam (see observations)

The game at Citizens Bank Park ended when Blake Treinen fanned Hoskins with a runner on. Hoskins went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. He struck out six times and went 0 for 11 in the three-game series. 

“I think he just expanded the zone,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “I think up until the past few days, and this is just my perspective on it, I think he was just letting it happen. And I think in the last few days he was trying to make it happen.” 

Hoskins had 18 homers in 34 games entering Friday night, with six homers in the previous six games. He spent the weekend mostly flailing away and showed his frustration when he flung his bat after flying out to right in the fifth inning. 

“I think he got a little bit overanxious,” Hoskins said. “But every hitter goes through periods like that.”

Maikel Franco went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs for the Phillies, who led 3-2 when Henderson Alvarez left with no outs in the sixth inning after what was a successful return to the big leagues following a two-year injury absence. 

But Wendle later crushed a first-pitch mistake slider from Edubray Ramos into the right-field seats. It was the Avon Grove High School product’s second career home run. 

Alvarez gave up four runs and four hits with two walks and four strikeouts, using a fastball that topped out at 93. Besides back-to-back homers by Chad Pinder and Olson in the fourth, Alvarez was pleased with his performance. 

“I was a little nervous, I have to admit,” he said through an interpreter. “It was almost like my first time in the big leagues.”

It was a milestone in a difficult journey for the 2014 NL All-Star who threw a no-hitter for the Marlins in 2013. Multiple shoulder surgeries kept him out of the majors for two years. He was playing with the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League when the Phillies signed him to a minor league deal last month.  

“A lot of people didn’t believe in me. A lot of people thought that my career was over,” Alvarez said. “It’s great to be here and I’m grateful to the Phillies for giving me the opportunity to show not only them but everyone, that I’m still good, that I can still pitch. Even after my surgeries, I feel fine and I want to keep showing everyone I’m ready to go and can still pitch.”

Alvarez could get two more starts as he hopes to land a spot in the 2018 rotation. 

“That’s the point,” Alvarez said. “I’m working hard to at least give them a reason to think about me.”

Hoby Milner's scoreless streak highlighting Philliies' improving bullpen

Hoby Milner's scoreless streak highlighting Philliies' improving bullpen

Hoby Milner didn’t know he was accumulating the Phillies’ longest streak of scoreless appearances in a decade until his girlfriend sent him a screen grab from a recent television broadcast.

“I didn’t notice because I’ve had some shaky outings in there where I’ve had bases-loaded, one out, two outs and it just doesn’t feel like I had a good outing,” the lefty sidearmer said Sunday prior to the series finale vs. the Athletics. “I just got out of it without giving up a run. There’s some luck involved.”

Milner’s steak reached 20 appearances when he got two outs and walked one while pitching the sixth inning of Saturday night’s 5-3 win over Oakland. Milner last allowed a run when he was charged with two against Atlanta on July 29, spanning 16 1/3 innings entering Sunday’s game.

It’s the longest streak since J.C. Romero had 35 straight scoreless outings in 2007.

“A lot of the times, though, I come in and maybe get the first two outs and, like (Saturday) night, and it’s up to someone else to make sure he doesn’t score,” Milner said. “I’ve been lucky that most of my outings have been late and close and we’ve got Luis (Garcia) or (Hector) Neris coming after me and they just shut it down and I get off the hook.”

The skinny 26-year-old was a seventh-round pick of the Phillies in 2012 after playing college ball at Texas. The team decided his deceptive delivery was better for the bullpen and he became a full-time reliever in 2015.

Milner made his major-league debut June 24. Far from a finished product, he’s allowed 28 hits, including two home runs, while walking 11 and hitting four batters over his first 26 innings. But he’s struck out 16 in 30 appearances and held a 1.73 ERA.

His most impressive stat: lefties were batting .081 (3 for 37) during the scoreless streak.

Milner’s emergence is part of a trend. A group of mostly young Phillies relievers has impressed in the second half of the season.

“(Adam) Morgan has improved immensely and Hoby Milner has really established himself as a pretty good situational lefty. And he gets righties out for the most part,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “Garcia, huge step forward and outstanding. (Edubray) Ramos is pitching well. (Victor) Arano looks good and (Kevin) Siegrist, they’re all contributing. They’re all pitching very well and that’s the reason we’re improving."

The Phillies had a streak of 18 2/3 scoreless innings pitched by relievers snapped in the ninth inning Saturday when Neris gave up a solo homer to Jed Lowrie. But Neris has converted 25 straight saves, and since Aug. 27, Phillies relievers have a 2.04 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings.

“Once we got rid of (Joaquin) Benoit and (Pat) Neshek and those guys, I’m assuming the Phillies had no clue how the bullpen was going to shape up the rest of the year,” Milner said. “But if we can show we can get outs and we can put up zeros now, that’s less than they have to go out and get in the offseason. They can focus on bigger roles and not bullpen guys.”