Rhys Hoskins saw just three pitches in his second and final at-bat Saturday afternoon. He was sure he should have seen a fourth. So sure, in fact, that he immediately slammed his helmet to the ground, leading to a quick ejection by home-plate umpire Will Little.
Gabe Kapler thought Little pulled the plug on Hoskins’ afternoon too quickly.
“Rhys is as respectful as they come,” the Phillies manager said after his team’s 6-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. “Obviously he threw his helmet down in disgust. At the same time, I think he was mad at himself. He was displaying that. He certainly wasn’t happy with the call. I went out there and my feeling was that Rhys was angry at himself and he had a right to say his piece about not thinking the pitch was a strike.”
Kapler also said Hoskins’ ejection changed the game by depriving the Phillies of one of their best hitters while also shortening the bench on a long afternoon in which the manager deployed five different pitchers.
“I certainly can’t say that it didn’t hurt us strategically,” Kapler said. “Obviously we want Rhys’ spot coming up as much as possible, particularly when he’s swinging the bat really well. So you can’t say it didn’t hurt.”
Hoskins continued to state his case to Little after the ejection before finally being pulled away from the argument by first-base umpire Joe West, the crew chief. As West escorted Hoskins from the field, the Phillies’ first baseman threw his batting gloves and shin guard into the field of play.
It was the first time Hoskins has been ejected in his career, and when Little reviews his calls from Saturday he will see that he missed that one. Replays and MLB’s tracker both showed that the ball was clearly up and out of the strike zone.
“I argued my case just like every other hitter does when they disagree with a call and I guess they took that emotion as I was attacking him,” Hoskins said. “He has the right to make that call – unfortunate in a game as big as this one was.”
If the eye test is not enough to tell you that the Phillies’ playoff hopes have dimmed, then we have a little wild-card history lesson to help drive the point home.
Major League Baseball introduced the wild card in 1995 and expanded the system to two wild cards in each league in 2012. Since 1995, a total of 62 teams have made the postseason via the wild card, but only three of the 62 faced a deficit larger than the 3 ½ games -- one the Phillies are confronted by as they enter the season’s final month.
The best September comeback stories in wild-card history both occurred in 2011 when the Tampa Bay Rays overcame a 7 ½-game deficit in the wild-card standings on Sept. 1 and pulled ahead of the Boston Red Sox on the season’s final day. The same year, the St. Louis Cardinals overcame an 8 ½-game deficit on Sept. 1 to claim the National League wild-card berth on the season’s final day with the help of a Phillies’ win in Atlanta. The Cardinals, of course, went on to win the World Series that year.
Since the wild card was expanded to two teams in each league, the 2013 Cleveland Indians have staged the best comeback to claim a wild-card spot. They were 4 ½ games out on Sept. 1 and finished 21-6 to get into the playoffs.
A total of 15 teams faced a deficit going into September and made the playoffs as a wild card. Each of those 15 teams had a winning percentage over .600 in the final month. May is the only month this season that the Phillies have played .600-plus baseball. They were 17-11.