The Phillies lost the first two outs of Saturday’s sixth inning at third base, seeming to set the stage for another squandered rally after a night of missed chances.
They had already blown a three-run lead in an eventual 7-5 win over the Rockies in Denver and were challenged — just like they were on Friday — to tack on more.
But then Rhys Hoskins crushed a low fastball, drove it to right field for a three-run homer, and emphatically pumped his fist at the dugout as he rounded first base at Coors Field. For the Phillies, it was a relief. Saturday night would not be like Friday night.
“It’s always a punch in the gut to lose the way that we did Friday night,” Hoskins said. “We needed a win. Always need a win.”
It was Hoskins’ second homer of the game as his two-run homer in the third put the Phillies ahead by a run. He drove in five of the team’s seven runs.
“We’re still working. It’s something that I feel like is getting better every single day,” said Hoskins, who last had a multi-homer game on Sept. 2, 2019. “I’m just missing a lot less pitches right now. There’s still a little bit to clean up and really let the swing and the work and the prep show up in the game. Still fighting myself a little bit, but really happy with the results tonight.”
Hoskins homered three times in the first two games this weekend and four times in his last four games. Hoskins seems to be heating up and the Phillies’ lineup — which went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position in Friday’s loss — could use some fire.
“Shoot, he’s crushing the ball right now,” Aaron Nola said. “He looks good. He looks really good.”
His homer in the third highlighted a four-run inning that put the Phillies up, 4-1. But the Rockies scored three times in the fifth off Nola to tie the game. Hoskins gave Nola the lead again an inning later and Nola responded by giving the Phillies seven innings.
He wasn’t dominant Saturday the way he was last Sunday when he threw a shutout against St. Louis. But Nola was efficient. He threw just eight pitches in the third, 11 pitches in the fourth, 11 pitches in the sixth and 10 pitches in the seventh. Nola didn’t have his best stuff Saturday, but pushed himself through seven innings and helped Joe Girardi find rest for his bullpen.
“Anytime you can go seven innings and only give up three or four runs here, that’s not too bad,” Girardi said. “It’s a lot different than other places. I thought it was huge. ... Another really good performance for Nola.”
The win brings the Phillies back to .500 at 10-10 and gives them a chance to win the series on Sunday afternoon. It was also a welcome sight to see them respond for a late win on the road, where they have won just two of their eight games this season. They have five more road games before returning to South Philly on Friday. The Phillies have to survive the trip. A win like Saturday helps them do that.
Connor Brogdon allowed a run in the eighth and Hector Neris pitched the ninth. It was a chance for the bullpen to recover after blowing leads in three straight games. Didi Gregorius, who has been troubled defensively this season, made a nice play in the fourth to start a double play, and Andrew McCutchen, who has batted leadoff in each of his 17 starts this season, reached base three times.
The Phillies remain committed to McCutchen atop the lineup even though he’s batting just .164 this season. But his on-base percentage increased Saturday from .296 to .316. McCutchen is off to a slow start, but there’s really not an obvious candidate to replace him in the leadoff spot while Jean Segura is on the disabled list.
So the Phillies will hope a night like Saturday can spark McCutchen.
“I think you could put Joyce there,” Girardi said before Saturday’s game of Matt Joyce, who has batted leadoff when starting for McCutchen in left field. “After that, I’m not sure where you go. I could toy around with some different people, obviously, against right-handers and left-handers, but those are probably the two best candidates for us. I thought Cutch’s at-bats were a little bit better Friday, so hopefully it gets him going. But we need to get him going.”
Nick Maton, who started for the fifth straight game, started the sixth with a double off Jhoulys Chacin. Maton went 2 for 3 for his third straight multi-hit game.
“He’s definitely not afraid,” Hoskins said. “He doesn’t lack confidence, which is such a great thing in this game. The kid can hit. I think a lot of us have been pretty impressed by the way he handled himself on defense and in the field. He’s a talkative guy but he’s a sponge. He’s always asking questions and trying to get better.”
Roman Quinn walked to bring up Nola, but his sacrifice-bunt attempt was fielded by the catcher and thrown to third to get Maton. Quinn, for the second time this season, was thrown out trying to steal third base. Quinn stole third safely on Friday night, but the decision still seemed too risky.
Girardi took the blame, saying he gave Quinn a green light to steal.
“I’m going to take my chances with Roman,” Girardi said. “He’s been thrown out twice this year, but once he came off the bag. Perfectly executed throw by the catcher. If it’s not perfect, I think he’s safe. Unless, I feel really good about his chances of doing it, I’m not going to turn him loose.”
It almost crushed a rally. But McCutchen walked on four pitches and Hoskins got a pitch that he would not miss. Saturday night no longer felt like Friday night, when the Phillies lost on a walk-off home run.
“These guys put a lot of hard work in,” Girardi said. “There’s frustration in this room. Guys look up their averages and they’re not pleased with them. We’ve all been through that. There are years where you start slow, but they keep working at it. But we have to remember, we’ve played 20 games. We have a long way to go.”