Rhys Hoskins clapped his hands, looked to the dugout, and raised two fingers after his double dropped into left field to bring home needed insurance runs in an 8-6 win over Washington at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.
The Phillies, clinging to a two-run lead and with their bullpen starting to slip, needed a big hit with two outs in the seventh inning and runners on second and third. Two weeks ago, a walk or strikeout from Hoskins would have been the most likely outcome.
For Hoskins, much has changed in two weeks. But much has also remained the same. He ripped a two-run double Monday night to go along with a first-inning homer to continue a torrid stretch. Hoskins is hitting .319 with 13 RBIs over his last 13 games and has homered in three straight games.
Hoskins had just one RBI and three extra-base hits through the first 14 games. Yet the Phillies were satisfied. Hoskins, manager Joe Girardi and general manager Matt Klentak said, was reaching base via walks and working good at-bats. Hoskins said then that his approach was sound — he wasn’t chasing pitches — and the results would come. Neither Girardi nor Klentak nor Hoskins ever seemed to offer a hint of concern.
So it must have been satisfying Monday night to see Hoskins, the team’s RBI leader over the last three seasons, standing on second base with his fingers up. He still takes the same approach — a patient attack with a strong understanding of the strike zone — but the results are finally turning.
The Phillies’ path to October will rely heavily on their lineup. Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto carried them for the first half of a 60-game season. And now Hoskins seems ready to share the load.
“Trust is the key word here. You can go a little insane if you keep doing the same thing and you’re not getting the results that you hoped for or that you feel like you should be getting,” Hoskins said.
“But that’s what this game is. I think the guys who last in this game are ones that no matter the pitch, no matter the count, no matter the at-bat, no matter the year, whatever, if you’re confident in the work that you’re doing over a long season or a short season, you have the best chance to have sustained success. It’s good to get over that hump and realize that trusting the work is going to be fine in the long run, and here we are.”
The Phillies have won six of their last seven games and are at .500 after their first 30 games of the season. They are tied with Miami for second place in the National League East, which is good enough to make the postseason under the new expanded format.
The Phillies were plagued in the first half by an unreliable bullpen, but Klentak addressed the unit again Monday by trading for Milwaukee right-hander David Phelps shortly before the trade deadline. They have acquired four relievers in the last 10 days and returned Ranger Suarez on Monday from the injured list. The bullpen is much improved. The Phillies seem to be in prime position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011. And Hoskins is primed to play a big part in getting them there.
“There’s been a lot of work being done with Joe Dillon, the hitting coach, that really goes back to last November,” Hoskins said. “It’s kind of one of those things that you start to trust the work and it starts to show up in the game. I said a couple weeks ago that I’m just trying to be in attack mode and trust my eyes, whether or not to swing or not swing.
“It’s always nice to see yourself get on the other side of a bad stretch,” Hoskins added. “Really in anything. Not just in the game of baseball. But to see yourself come out of something that you were struggling with is always nice.”
Spencer Howard allowed two runs on five hits in five innings to earn his first major-league win. He struck out four and walked two. The rookie struck out the side in the first inning and scattered three hits through four innings before Juan Soto tagged him for a two-run homer in the fifth. Howard finished the inning, but the homer spoiled what had been Howard’s best performance since being promoted.
The Phillies still have 30 games remaining, but they can begin to dream about the postseason and how they would align their starting rotation for a first-round three-game series. Zach Eflin seems to be the favorite for the third spot, but a lot could change between now and Sept. 29. For now, the Phillies will lean on Howard every fifth day to make sure they’re still playing on Sept. 29.
“It’s exciting,” Howard said. “I like pitching in games that feel like they matter more. Games late in the season, playoffs, and all of that stuff is pretty fun. So I’m excited to get there and see what the atmosphere is like.”
Jean Segura hit a three-run double in the fourth and Jay Bruce homered in his first at-bat since being activated from the injured list. The Phillies had just seven hits, but they scored eight runs. They were efficient. Each of the first six baserunners scored and the Phillies didn’t leave a runner on base until the seventh inning.
“I’ve said before that there really isn’t a break,” Hoskins said. “You can see in the last week that it’s become a pick your poison type of thing. We’ve gotten a lot of big hits from a lot of different people. I’m sure the other team knows that. Not really knowing who to go after on a night in and night out basis is exciting for us and really comforting and gives us a ton of confidence. A bunch of hitters with a ton of confidence results in a lot of runs and I think that’s what you’re seeing.”
Heath Hembree allowed back-to-back homers to the first two batters he faced in the top of the seventh, but the rest of the bullpen was dependable.
JoJo Romero retired each of the four batters he faced after relieving Howard. Tommy Hunter bailed out Hembree in the seventh and then handled the eighth.
Brandon Workman allowed two runs in the ninth, but it felt inconsequential, thanks to Hoskins. The bullpen has not been perfect for the last week, but it’s been much better than it was two weeks ago.
And so has Hoskins. His two-run double came after Hembree allowed back-to-back homers to the first batters he faced in the top of the seventh. The Phillies were still six outs from a win and a two-run lead no longer felt safe.
Bruce singled and Alec Bohm doubled before the rally seemed to fizzle when Roman Quinn and Andrew McCutchen were retired. Enter Hoskins. He jumped on Wander Suero’s third-pitch, stood on second base with his fingers raised and the Phillies felt safe again.