The Phillies added a bullpen arm in the afternoon and another victory at night Monday, leaving them with a 15-15 record halfway through this pandemic-shortened season. They are tied for second place with the Miami Marlins and 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves.
Rhys Hoskins continued to fuel the Phillies’ high-powered offense, with a home run, a double and three RBIs in the 8-6 win over the last-place Washington Nationals. Hoskins became the first Phillies player in the modern era (since 1900) to have multiple extra-base hits and a home run in three straight games. He has improved his average from .200 to .260 in his last 10 games by batting .350 (14-for-40) with five homers and 11 RBIs.
The Phillies, meanwhile, have scored five or more runs in 17 of their 30 games this season.
“I think our roster speaks for itself,” Hoskins said. “I think you’ve seen the last 10 days or so that the offense is really starting to click as we get into a rhythm. We’re having really, really professional at-bats one through nine from the first pitch to the last.”
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It was a good day and a good night for Spencer Howard.
The day was good because when the Phillies had finished upgrading the roster at the 4 p.m. trade deadline, general manager Matt Klentak had added veteran reliever David Phelps but left the starting rotation intact. That meant Howard, a 24-year-old rookie, would remain in the rotation through September as the Phillies push for a spot in the playoffs.
The night was even better, as Howard delivered five strong innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out four. The only runs he allowed came on a fifth-inning home run by Juan Soto, who hit a middle-of-the-plate slider into the left-center field seats.
Howard retired the next two hitters and was done for the night after 91 pitches. He left with a 6-2 lead, and the Phillies held on to give the rookie the first victory of his career.
“I thought he used all his pitches,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He wasn’t just a two-pitch guy. He used his slider effectively, he used his curveball effectively, and it made his fastball and change-up better. He got pushed a little bit at 90 pitches … but he used all his pitches and he was a different guy.”
Girardi said Howard’s performance enhanced his confidence in the rookie.
“I feel better about it now just because of what I saw,” the manager said. “I saw his whole repertoire. I hope today is a big step for him and that he understands he can compete at this level and he can use all his pitches and have success.”
Howard welcomes the opportunity to pitch in big games.
“Yeah, it’s exciting,” he said. “I like pitching in games that feel like they matter more. Games late in the season and playoffs and all that stuff is pretty fun. I’m excited to get there and see what the atmosphere is like.”
There was also a sense of excitement about the addition of Phelps, a right-hander who has a 2.85 ERA since the 2016 season.
“I have faced Phelps,” Hoskins said. “I think I struck out and did not feel like a professional hitter. You don’t hang around the game as long as he has without doing something right. I saw a couple crazy stats today following the deadline. He’s getting lefties out at a really high clip, and anytime you have a guy who can get both sides out, it becomes really dangerous.”
Lefties are 4-for-30 against Phelps this season and right-handers are just 3-for-15 for an overall average of .155.
For the third straight season, the Phillies have reached September with a chance to reach the playoffs. This opportunity feels a lot more legitimate after Monday’s addition of Phelps to the bullpen.
Suddenly, Hoskins is the hottest hitter in the Phillies lineup, and he was also the primary reason they opened their series against the Nationals with a win Monday night.
According to Scott Lauber, 12 notable relievers were traded during the deadline period and four of them went to the Phillies, with the last one being Phelps on Monday.
The Phillies have spoken to catcher J.T. Realmuto’s agent, according to Klentak, but the general manager refused to offer any details about those conversations with free agency looming after this season.
Photographer Steven M. Falk had some great shots of a Rhys Hoskins double that scored two runs for the Phillies and a beautiful double rainbow that shined above Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.
Tonight: Aaron Nola against Washington lefty Patrick Corbin, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zack Wheeler goes against Max Scherzer, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Series finale with Nats, Zach Eflin vs. Anibal Sánchez, 4:05 p.m.
Friday: Series opener vs. Mets at Citi Field, 7:10 p.m.
Monday: Labor Day matinee vs. Mets, 1:10 p.m.
This is an interesting fact and an opportunity to plug Frank Fitzpatrick’s recent outstanding story on the two surviving members of the Phillies’ Whiz Kids squad, which captivated the city by winning the National League pennant in 1950. The two survivors from that team are 94-year-old Bob Miller and 91-year-old Curt Simmons, both of whom played vital roles in helping the team reach the World Series for the first time since 1915.
Our factoid, however, has to do with a game 13 seasons later on this date when Simmons was playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. After hitting an RBI triple off Chris Short in a game at Connie Mack Stadium, Simmons became the last pitcher in baseball history to steal home plate. Simmons broke too soon from third base on a squeeze play and catcher Bob Oldis ordered a pitch out, but Short’s pitch sailed over the catcher’s head, allowing Simmons to score. The ruling was a stolen base.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Answer: This might even be a more interesting question than the ongoing Realmuto signing issue only because we all know and the Phillies know, too, that they must sign their All-Star catcher. With Gregorius, it’s a little different. He has played very well and is an unquestionable leader who is loved by his manager and teammates.
But Gregorius is going to want more than a one-year deal after this season and the Phillies have a shortstop in waiting in Bryson Stott, the team’s 2019 first-round pick. Still, if I’m the Phillies, I try to get Gregorius on a two-year deal and let Stott continue to play shortstop and second base. It will be interesting.