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Phillies-Nationals observations: Hoskins goes deep as Phils hold off Nats

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Phillies-Nationals observations: Hoskins goes deep as Phils hold off Nats

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON -- Rhys Hoskins homered again and drew three walks and Mark Leiter Jr. notched the pitching victory as the Phillies beat the Washington Nationals, 5-4, on Saturday night.

The Phillies got strong bullpen work from Edubray Ramos, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris in making a one-run lead stand up in the late innings. Neris got the final two outs with the potential tying run on second.

• Leiter Jr. allowed four runs over six innings and left with a 5-4 lead. Leiter took a two-run lead to the mound in the sixth and allowed a pair of no-out singles, prompting a visit from pitching coach Bob McClure. Leiter then retired the next two batters on fly balls to center. He then gave up an RBI single to Michael A. Taylor as the Nats pulled to within a run before retiring pinch-hitter Adam Lind for the final out.

• Reliever Ramos has pitched well — and with a lot of confidence — since coming back from the minors. He registered a pair of strikeouts in protecting a one-run lead in the seventh. His second strikeout came on a hard-biting breaking ball to the dangerous Howie Kendrick and stranded the potential tying run at second. Ramos has struck out 23 and walked just five in 16 2/3 innings since coming back from Triple A. He has the stuff to be a force late in games. Lately, he has been.

• Reliever Garcia struck out the side in the eighth, getting three tough customers in Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon with a combination of fastballs and hard sliders. One of Garcia's fastballs registered 100 mph. Garcia has long had a great arm and tantalized Phillies officials with his potential. The team's patience with him might pay off. He has allowed just one run in his last 14 appearances and just eight in his last 39 innings.

• The Phillies got solo home runs from Hoskins and Maikel Franco in the second inning. Hoskins was on base four times with the homer and three walks. His bases-loaded walk in the fourth delivered a run. He also stole his first base as a big-leaguer. He had just 19 steals in 455 games in the minors.

• Hoskins has 14 homers in 30 big-league games. That's the most homers ever by a player who made his big-league debut after August 1.

• Franco has homered in two straight games since being held out of the starting lineup three straight games.

• Odubel Herrera had a tough night. He left seven men on base and saw his 21-game hitting streak end. That was the longest in the majors this season.

• J.P. Crawford did not start after playing the previous four games, three at third base and one at shortstop. He could get his first start at second base on Sunday. Crawford pinch-hit in the eighth inning against Joe Blanton and stuck out on a breaking ball.

• Aaron Atherr has been cleared to play. In fact, he entered as a defensive sub in left field in the ninth inning. Manager Pete Mackanin said there was a possibility Altherr would start in the outfield on Sunday afternoon, which is good news for fans who've been clamoring to see him play over Hyun Soo Kim. Altherr has not had an at-bat since August 4 when he went on the disabled list with a hamstring strain.

• Heard a couple of Eagles chants in the stands. The Birds, of course, open up down this way Sunday. (Personal note: Hope the Birds go undefeated, but it's must-see TV when Michael B. goes nuts on the postgame show after they lose.)

• Rookie Ben Lively (3-5, 3.92) pitches against Washington's Stephen Strasburg in the series finale on Sunday afternoon. Strasburg is 12-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 24 starts. Over his last three starts, he has worked 21 scoreless innings, walked just two and struck out 23. It won't be an easy assignment for the Phillies.

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.

Dramatically.

What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

The Phillies' busy Friday continued with a pricey free-agent signing.

The Phils have agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

It is by far the most expensive contract the Phillies have given out under the Matt Klentak-Andy MacPhail regime.

They had the money. When the offseason began, the only player the Phillies had signed to a multi-million dollar deal was Odubel Herrera.

Santana, 31, has always been a high-walk power hitter. From 2011 through 2017, he walked between 88 and 113 times each season, all while maintaining relatively low strikeout totals for a man with such power and plate selection.

In 2016, Santana set a career high with 34 home runs. Last season, he hit .259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

This addition provides the Phillies with much-needed pop to protect Rhys Hoskins and also gives the Phils added versatility. Santana is a switch-hitter who came up as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2014. The last three seasons, he has played primarily first base. In his eight seasons, Santana has also started 26 games at third base and seven in right field.

The move likely means Hoskins will play left field, and it could facilitate another Phillies trade of an outfielder such as Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr or Odubel Herrera.