CLEVELAND -- Rhys Hoskins flailed at a slider in the dirt and off the plate, put his head down and chugged to first base knowing full well that he would never get there before the catcher's throw.
That was Sunday night -- and really, the last 3 1/2 months of the season -- in a nutshell for the Phillies.
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There were many reasons why the Phillies got routed by the Indians, 10-1, in the finale of a three-game series here at Progressive Field, just as there are many explanations for why they have faded from the playoff race. Take your pick from Vince Velasquez allowing the Phillies’ majors-leading 16th home run on an 0-2 pitch to yet another move that backfired on embattled manager Gabe Kapler.
Then there’s Hoskins, the homegrown slugger and cleanup hitter who has endured a miserable second half of the season, punctuated by an 0-for-18 spell that had him looking as lost as ever at the plate in a sixth-inning at-bat against Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco.
Add it all up and the Phillies are on the brink of mathematical elimination. Any combination of two more losses or victories by the scorching-hot Milwaukee Brewers will kick the Phillies out of contention for the postseason derby for the eighth consecutive year.
"We've got our work cut out for us," Kapler said. "Certainly we're going to have to win every game. We're going to have to win out. We understand that’s a tall task. We also understand that’s a possibility. There’s not a guy in that room that’s not going to fight to the very end."
To be fair, Hoskins wasn’t the only Phillies hitter fooled by Carrasco, who stole the show on national television.
A Phillies pitching prospect more than a decade ago, Carrasco returned to the Indians earlier this month after being diagnosed in June with a treatable form of leukemia. Making his ninth relief appearance since his comeback, he entered to a standing ovation in the fifth inning, got J.T. Realmuto to ground into a rally-killing double play, then tossed two more scoreless frames to hold down the Phillies while the Indians' hitters went to work.
And did they ever do a number on the Phillies.
Velasquez was one strike away from escaping a sloppy fifth inning in which he and shortstop Jean Segura both committed errors. After getting Oscar Mercado to foul off a curveball and a fastball, Velasquez stuck with the rising heater, his best pitch and the right choice in that situation.
One problem: He didn't elevate it enough, leaving it over the plate for Mercado to blast it out to left field for a three-run homer that gave the Indians a 4-1 lead.
"Maybe I could've missed a little bit higher? Yeah, of course," Velasquez said. "But the conviction and everything was still there. I mean, 96 [mph]? [Shoot], he got a [bat] head out. Congratulations. Go ahead and move on."
Said Kapler: "I think Vinny will say if he went to a breaking ball right there he probably gets a swing and miss. If he elevates that fastball a little more he probably gets a swing and miss. But to that point, Vinny was executing his pitches and he missed with that one."
The Indians stretched the lead with a six-run seventh inning. The big moment in that rally: Kapler, citing right-hitting Yasiel Puig’s markedly better numbers against right-handed pitching, brought in lefty Cole Irvin to face him.
This being Kapler and the 2019 Phillies, Puig naturally crushed a bases-loaded double to the gap in right-center field.
With the Brewers idle Monday, the Phillies will remain alive through at least the first game of their day-night doubleheader Tuesday in Washington. By now, though, elimination is inevitable.
Internally, the dissection of why things went wrong has already begun. Hoskins’ second-half stumble was a big part of it. He was batting .263 with 20 homers and a .931 on-base plus slugging percentage before the All-Star break. Since then, he’s batting .188 with nine homers and a .720 OPS.
Not even a new hitting coach has been able to snap Hoskins from his slumber. In 35 games since Charlie Manuel took over, Hoskins is batting .195 with five homers, 22 walks, 42 strikeouts and a .407 slugging percentage, nearly identical to his numbers in his last 35 games with deposed hitting coach John Mallee (.198, five HR, 29 walks, 35 strikeouts, .413 slugging).
But there's time to analyze what went wrong. For now, the Phillies insist they're thinking only about trying to stay alive for as long as possible.
“We know what we’ve got to do," Velasquez said. “We’re grown-ups here. We know what’s in front of us. We know what the job is. We know what we’ve got to do individually and as a team. I don’t think we have any type of doubts of what can happen. We know that Washington’s up ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go over there and sweep 'em five games.”