Phillies

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Hoskins and Williams still impress as losses mount

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CSN/USA Today Images

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Hoskins and Williams still impress as losses mount

Phillies (43-76) at Giants (49-74)
10:15 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

What had the makings of a successful week out west has not come to fruition for the Phillies, who were swept by lowly San Diego and dropped Game 1 of their four-game series to the San Francisco Giants last night.

Aaron Nola's run of dominance came to an end — he's human, after all — and the Phillies fell just short against Jeff Samardzija and the Giants' pen.

But still, there was a lot to like last night.

1. Hoskins getting comfortable
After homering three times in San Diego, Rhys Hoskins found other ways to produce Thursday in San Fran. 

Playing in the toughest outfield in baseball, Hoskins made an impressive running catch in front of the left-center field warning track on a ball in the gap. He looked like a natural leftfielder on that play. Later in the game, he threw out Buster Posey trying to go first to third on a single.

Hoskins also singled twice and finished the night 2 for 3 with a walk. The lone out he made shouldn't have even been an out. Hoskins opened the eighth inning with a line shot down the third-base line that appeared to bounce over the bag in fair territory but was called foul. That type of play is not reviewable, so instead of an inning-opening double, Hoskins eventually popped out to shallow center.

Hoskins looks like the real deal, not just because of the power but because of the patience he continues to show at the plate. The Phillies don't have enough players who work counts and don't let pitchers get away with mistakes.

2. Williams keeps hitting
Last night was Nick Williams' 40th game and he continues to show no signs of slowing down. He crushed a solo home run to right-center field off Samardzija last night for his sixth homer and 25th RBI.

Williams is hitting .291/.348/.507 — better numbers than he had in the minors.

The 431-foot home run really stood out because of how difficult it is to go deep at AT&T Park. Entering last night, there had been 23 fewer homers hit there than any other park in the majors and 70 fewer homers than the league average.

Williams runs well, defends all three outfield positions well, has hit for average and power and held his own against lefties. What's not to like? Williams is 10 for 33 (.303) off lefties with a triple and two homers.

There are a whole lot of question marks about the Phillies' future but their outfield appears to be set with Odubel Herrera in center and Williams and Aaron Altherr in the corners (once everyone is healthy).

3. Which Eflin will we see?
Zach Eflin makes his 11th start of the season tonight, matching his total from 2016. He's 1-4 with a 5.76 ERA this season and 4-9 with a 5.65 ERA in his career.

Eflin is coming off an uneven start against the Mets in which he mostly pitched well but was hurt by two home runs. He just didn't command the ball low in the zone, as evidenced by the career-low three groundballs he generated.

The last time Eflin pitched in spacious AT&T Park, he allowed just an unearned run over six innings. 

Current Giants have gone 7 for 21 (.333) off Eflin with two doubles (both by Nick Hundley) and a homer (Brandon Crawford).

The Phillies have some decisions to make this winter with the starting pitching staff. Nola is obviously a lock, as is Jerad Eickhoff in the back of the rotation. Nick Pivetta has enough stuff to warrant a long look again in 2018. But beyond that? The Phillies don't know if they can rely on Vince Velasquez, who has struggled with injuries and inefficiency. They don't know about Eflin's long-term outlook; some nights he's brilliant, some nights he doesn't look like a viable starting pitcher. Jake Thompson has taken steps back. Ben Lively has flashed some things but does he have a sustainable repertoire?

It would seem to behoove the Phillies to add a few veteran starting pitchers this offseason via trade or free agency. I don't mean a Clay Buchholz-type, either. We talk a lot about that flashy 2018-19 free-agent class, but the top guys aren't going to want to come here if the Phillies are still a 70-win team. Improving the starting pitching staff as these young position players continue to grow would be a way to move the needle forward.

4. Moore disappointment?
The Phillies face struggling Giants left-hander Matt Moore, who enters 3-12 with a 5.71 ERA. 

Moore was once one of the most intriguing young pitchers in baseball, but he hasn't been good since 2013. Walks are always an issue, and he's on track this season to allow more home runs than ever before. Moore has walked 50 and allowed 22 homers in 135⅔ innings this season.

The Phillies hit him around back on June 4, scoring five runs and chasing him after four innings. They also faced him last season in his very first start with the Giants. On that day, Moore walked six men in six innings but allowed just two runs.

Moore lacks an out-pitch against lefties, who have hit an insane .386/.448/.641 off of him this season. So don't expect Pete Mackanin to try to load up the lineup with righties, who have hit .259/.318/.455.

The only Phillie to ever take Moore deep is Freddy Galvis. Cesar Hernandez is 3 for 7 with two doubles, a triple and two walks. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies are 6-21 against the NL West. Again, that's the worst record for any major-league team against any division in 2017.

• The Phils are 19-45 on the road. That .297 winning percentage is their third-worst on the road since 1940.

• The Phillies are 2½ games worse than the next-worst team, the White Sox at 45-73.

• In 36 career games against the Phillies, Buster Posey has hit .394 with a .943 OPS. It's Posey's highest batting average against any team, but at least 45 of his 56 hits have been singles.

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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AP Images

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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USA Today Images

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.