Phillies

Phillies-Marlins thoughts: Phils need Pivetta to turn a corner in September

stream-phillies-marlins-hoskins-stanton-640.jpg

Phillies-Marlins thoughts: Phils need Pivetta to turn a corner in September

Phillies (50-83) at Marlins (66-67)
7:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Thoughts on Game 2 of the Phillies' four-game series at Marlins Park, their last trip of the season to Miami:

• Some housekeeping notes first: Vince Velasquez will have surgery, reliever Casey Fien was released, and Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr had their rehab assignments transferred to Triple A Lehigh Valley. The expectation remains that both outfielders will come off the DL after the weekend.

• The Phillies had an impressive night of pitching in the opener, holding Giancarlo Stanton hitless and the Marlins to two runs on eight hits, six of which were singles.

Ben Lively allowed two runs, making it eight of 10 starts that he's allowed three earned runs or less. And Adam Morgan had a dominant seventh inning, striking out the side and lowering his ERA to 4.46. 

• Morgan ends August by allowing one run in 14⅓ innings with two walks and 22 strikeouts. Yes, 22 strikeouts. He's just a different pitcher with this better fastball and tighter slider. Improbably, he has a chance next spring to pitch himself into a late-inning relief role.

• Stanton ended his insane, historic month of August by going 0 for 9 in his final two games. His 0-for-5 Thursday night was his worst game of the month. From Aug. 1 to Aug. 29, he hit .380 with 18 homers and 37 RBIs in 27 games.

• These are important games for Miami. At 66-67, the Marlins are still theoretically in contention for the final NL wild-card spot but Thursday's result pushed them to six games back.

Nick Pivetta, who has pitched exactly 100 innings in 20 starts, gets the nod tonight. He enters 5-9 with a 6.57 ERA, 106 strikeouts, 45 walks and 21 home runs allowed.

Pivetta has shown this season that he has electric stuff, but he too often either loses his control or misses over the middle of the plate. It's been a learning experience for him.

Pivetta faced the Marlins two starts ago on Aug. 22 and allowed six runs on seven hits and two homers in just 1⅓ innings. He also faced them on July 19 and gave up three runs in 5⅓ innings.

Christian Yelich has homered twice off Pivetta, while Stanton and Marcell Ozuna have taken him deep once each.

• The Phillies face Marlins left-hander Dillon Peters, who is making his major-league debut. A 10th-round pick in 2014, Peters comes up from Double A, where he was 6-2 with a 1.97 ERA in nine starts this season. With 50 walks in 236⅔ minor-league innings, his calling card is control.

The Phillies have held their own against left-handed starting pitchers this season, going 18-19.

Gabe Kapler eats a big steak, watches a big arm during trip to Reading

uspresswire-phillies-gabe-kapler.jpg
USA Today Images

Gabe Kapler eats a big steak, watches a big arm during trip to Reading

Gabe Kapler, manager of the 14-7 Phillies, took a busman’s holiday Monday and ventured up Rt. 422 to watch the Double A Reading Fightin Phils play the Akron Rubber Ducks. (Actual name.)

Before the game, Kapler enjoyed an “incredible” 20 oz. rib eye – medium rare – at one of Reading’s fine steakeries. (The name eluded him.) He then headed over to the ballpark, fedora perched stylishly atop his head, and watched the Fightins beat the Cleveland Indians’ Double A club, 8-4.

“I thought it was the right thing to do to support (Reading manager) Greg Legg and the work that he is doing,” Kapler said of his trip to Reading. “Our player development staff is so incredibly invested in what we’re doing here and they deserve a lot of credit for the start that we’re off to. Their fingerprints are all over this major league club and we’re in this together. Player development is an unsung department in an organization and those guys deserve a lot of love and credit for what is happening here.”

Kapler was impressed with several of Reading's players.

“I saw some cool things,” he said before the big Phillies got back to work Tuesday night. “Zach Coppola and his effort on the bases. He drove a ball to left-center field with a beautiful swing. And he gave his body for the club on defense when he crashed into the wall full speed. That was really impressive.

“I saw (Zach) Green hit a home run.

“And Seranthony was sensational. It was nice to see him.”

Seranthony Dominguez, a 23-year-old power-armed right-hander from the Dominican Republic, is making the transition from starter to reliever this season. He has opened the season with 18 strikeouts and two walks in his first 12 innings. He pitched a perfect inning Monday night with Kapler looking on.

Dominguez, a potential closer down the road, had previously impressed Kapler during a stint in big-league camp this spring.

Kapler was asked if he believed Dominguez could help the big club this season.

“He’s definitely got the talent,” Kapler said. “He’s definitely got the demeanor. And one of the things I mentioned yesterday as I was watching him was when we went out for mound visits (during spring training) this was a guy that was completely composed, in some ways similar to the way Scott Kingery’s heartbeat is. He was always very cool, calm and collected. Then to come up and dial up 97, 98 [mph] with a nasty slider — those two things in combination lead me to believe he can make an impact.”

A mechanical adjustment 'kick-started' Rhys Hoskins' career

usa-rhys-hoskins-phillies-joe-jordan.jpg
USA Today Images

A mechanical adjustment 'kick-started' Rhys Hoskins' career

The spectacular beginning of Rhys Hoskins’ major-league career can be traced to a conversation he had with two members of the Phillies’ player-development department back in September 2014.

Hoskins had arrived in the Phillies organization earlier that year as a fifth-round draft pick out of Sacramento State University. That summer, he made his professional debut at Williamsport of the New York-Penn League. He hit .237 with nine homers and 40 RBIs in 70 games.

Phillies instructors liked what they saw of Hoskins that summer. They loved the potential. But something was missing.

“He didn’t consistently get his weight back,” director of player development Joe Jordan recalled. “His legs weren’t in his swing every night. The timing, the bat speed and swing path were all good, but they weren’t consistent every night.”

After the Williamsport season ended, Hoskins reported to the Florida Instructional League in Clearwater. He was hitting off a tee, by himself, in a batting cage early one morning when Jordan and Andy Tracy, the team’s minor-league hitting coordinator, approached him with an idea.

“What do you think about making a change to your stance?” Jordan asked Hoskins.

Hoskins, thoughtful, respectful, mature, coachable, eager to learn and just as eager to succeed, was all ears.

“I was open to anything,” he said.

On that September day in 2014, during a conversation in a batting cage in Clearwater, Hoskins’ left leg kick was born.

He has used it to trigger his swing ever since.

And …

“It’s made all the difference in my career,” he said. “I don’t know where I’d be without it.”

The Phillies, off to a 14-7 start, enjoyed an off day Monday. That provides us with a neat little checkpoint on Hoskins’ big-league career, which is just 71 games old, less than a half-season. He arrived in the majors on Aug. 10. Since then, he ranks first in the majors in RBIs (67) and pitches seen (1,376), third in walks (56), fourth in OPS (1.038) and times on base (126), and sixth in extra-base hits (36). His 22 home runs rank fifth in the majors in that span behind J.D. Martinez (27), Giancarlo Stanton (25), Aaron Judge (23) and Matt Olson (23).

Hoskins was no slouch at Sacramento State. He was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year as a junior in 2014, the year the Phillies drafted him. But even his college coach admitted last summer that the leg kick had taken Hoskins to a new level (see story).

There are a number of benefits to the leg kick, Hoskins said. Among them: It slows him down a little. If he gets his leg up early, it allows his eyes to work and that helps his pitch recognition. It helps his rhythm and timing. It gets him on his backside and gives him a loading mechanism that translates into power when he fires through the ball.

“I had no prior experience with it before Joe and Andy mentioned it,” Hoskins said. “I had no clue what I was doing with it. I was super spread out in my stance. I would get to a point where I would start my swing, stop and have to start it again. Those precious milliseconds are huge. I was late a lot. A lot. The room for error that I had was slim to none.”

When Jordan and Tracy first proposed the leg kick, they asked Hoskins to exaggerate it.

“The first thing Joe said was, ‘Try to hit your chin with your left knee,’” Hoskins recalled.

Hoskins experimented with the size of the kick for a couple of weeks in batting practice and in games. Then one day he hit a home run in a game against the Yankees’ instructional league team.

“The pitcher was throwing pretty hard and I was able to get to a ball that was in and I hit it for a home run,” Hoskins said. “I said to myself, ‘Hmmm, this is probably something to stick with.’”

Jordan and Tracy encouraged Hoskins to use the leg kick during his wintertime workouts after the 2014 season. He did. He made it part of him and his bat carried him on a quick trip through the Phillies’ minor-league system and into the middle of the big club’s batting order.

Amazing what one little bit of coaching can do when it finds a talented and willing student.

“Our entire staff watched Rhys that first summer and came up with a great plan for him,” Jordan said. “Those guys did it and Rhys nailed it. He took it home that winter, worked at it and it’s become his normal ever since.”