Rhys Hoskins made his major-league debut nearly four years ago as the No. 7 hitter in the Phillies lineup. Despite a terrific minor-league season, the Phillies didn’t want to burden Hoskins with the expectations that came with hitting in the heart of the order.
And then Hoskins – as he started to handle major-league pitching the way he did in the minors – started climbing the order. He spent his career at the top of the order, never hitting lower than fourth after his major-league debut in August of 2017. Joe Girardi hit Hoskins second in all of his 41 starts last season and has moved him this season between No. 2 and No. 3.
But that changed Sunday night. Hoskins, amid a slump, was moved back to the No. 7 spot. He entered Sunday with seven hits in his last 41 at-bats (.171 average) with 16 strikeouts, no home runs, and just two extra-base hits.
“I just don’t think you can ignore what Jean’s doing,” Girardi said of Jean Segura, who moved from No. 7 to No. 2 after having seven hits in two games since returning from the injured list. “He’s been so good against right-handers and left-handers that you just can’t ignore it. So I just flip-flopped them. I told Rhys, this is not a permanent thing but I think sometimes when a guy has swung the bat for somewhat of a substantial period of time really well, sometimes you have to make adjustments.”
Hoskins was 6-for-39 over a 10-game stretch earlier this season with 15 strikeouts before he homered six times in six games. It seemed like Hoskins was ready to snap a funk, but instead he slipped back into it. He struck out four times on Friday night and struck out Saturday as a pinch hitter.
“I just think his timing is a little bit off,” Girardi said. “For Rhys sometimes, he gets ahead of pitches. His work has been great. It’s been really, really good. I just think it’s a timing issue and we have to get it ironed out and then he’ll be the Rhys that we expect him to be.”
Hoskins has recently ditched his leg kick, which he started using in the minors, for a less noticeable toe-tap before swinging. Hoskins implemented the leg kick before the 2015 season when he had a .913 OPS in the low-levels of the minor leagues and put himself on the Phillies’ radar. Two seasons later, he was hitting seventh in the majors. And on Sunday, he was hitting there again.
“I don’t get too much into the mechanics of the swing. I let Joe handle that,” Girardi said of hitting coach Joe Dillon. “Sometimes guys just don’t feel comfortable with what’s going on and they’ll try to make an adjustment. He’ll get going again.”
Girardi removed Segura, their hottest hitter, on Saturday night with two outs in the seventh inning as part of a double switch. The Phillies were ahead by two runs and Segura’s place in the order was eight batters away. But the move bit the Phillies when they blew that lead and Segura’s place came to bat twice in extra innings.
Girardi switched out Segura to ensure that Jose Alvarado would be able to finish the seventh and return for the eighth without batting. Alvarado did that, but then Hector Neris allowed a game-tying homer in the ninth.
Replacing Segura was Girardi’s second double switch of the night as he lifted Brad Miller in the sixth when he called on Sam Coonrod. Both double switches would have been avoidable had Vince Velasquez been able to finish the sixth inning. Instead, he came two outs short and Girardi needed multiple innings from both Coonrod and Alvarado.
“Sometimes if you don’t close the game out, it can cost you,” Girardi said. “But I’m not planning for extra innings. That’s not what I’m planning for. ... I don’t necessarily want to make double switches, but sometimes your hand is forced because of your pitching.”
The Phillies are off on Monday. ... Chase Anderson will start Tuesday’s series opener in Washington against right-hander Erick Fedde. Zack Wheeler will start Wednesday against left-hander Jon Lester and Zach Eflin will start Thursday afternoon against left-hander Patrick Corbin.