Phillies

Rhys Hoskins the 'alien' lifts Phillies to wild '2-celebration' win

Rhys Hoskins the 'alien' lifts Phillies to wild '2-celebration' win

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It took the Phillies two tries to get it right, but they finally had their walk-off victory celebration on Tuesday night.

Or was it Wednesday morning?

Oh, what does it matter.

The Phillies opened a 10-game homestand with a wild win over the Miami Marlins. The Phils prevailed, 9-8, on an RBI double to left by rookie Nick Williams with two outs in the bottom of the 15th inning (see observations).

As Aaron Altherr (he reached on a one-out base hit) sprinted home with the winning run, Phillies players streamed out of the dugout to mob Williams, who had a three-hit night. His game-winning hit came just after midnight and it ended four hours and 57 minutes of baseball that wasn't always pretty.

The Phillies trailed, 7-2, after starter Nick Pivetta struggled, but they stormed back in the late innings. Rhys Hoskins smacked the first of his two home runs to help get the comeback started. The Phils scored three runs in the eighth, then tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning on a pinch-hit single by Hyun Soo Kim.

Actually, the Phillies thought they had won the game on Kim's hit in the ninth inning. The hit scored Williams with the tying run and Cesar Hernandez initially appeared to slide home with winning run. That set off a Phillies' celebration as players poured out of the dugout and mobbed Kim. He was doused with bubble gum and had his jersey torn off by jubilant teammates.

Turned out the celebration was premature. The Marlins challenged the initial safe call on the field and won. Hernandez was ruled out at the plate and Marlins rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton had his third assist of the night — one at second, one at third and one at home. The Phillies' celebration went for naught (forcing the grounds crew to scurry out and clean up the remnants) and the game moved on to extra innings.

Marcell Ozuna quickly put the Marlins ahead with a solo homer off Hector Neris in the top of the 10th and hard-throwing Miami right-hander Brian Ellington got the first two outs in the bottom of the inning.

The Marlins were one out away from a victory in 10 innings. All that stood in their way was Hoskins, and that's a pretty formidable roadblock lately. Hoskins, who has uncanny plate discipline for a rookie, worked the count to 2-0 and got the fastball he was looking for. It came in at 100 mph and left at 102 mph. It landed 413 feet away, over the centerfield wall, tying the game at 8-8.

For Hoskins, the home run felt good not only because it deadlocked the game. It also came against the same pitcher who hit him in the hand two weeks ago in Miami, knocking him from the lineup for a day. 

What Hoskins is doing to baseballs is nuts. He did not hit his first home run until Aug. 14. He now has 16 and that's just five off Tommy Joseph's team lead of 21. With 18 games left, it's not out of the question that Hoskins could lead this team in home runs, and that's rather amazing considering he did not come up until Aug. 10.

"He's an alien," Williams said. "He's not human. That's not real. That's crazy. And I'm hitting behind him, too, and I'm just constantly watching him and I'm like, 'Oh, my God.' What he's doing is amazing. He plays hard. He's a smart player. And what he's doing, I just love watching and being a part of it."

Hoskins laughed when he heard that Williams had called him an alien.

"That guy is pretty good himself, too," Hoskins said. "So I guess we can be alien friends."

Since starting his big-league career 0 for 10 in his first three games, Hoskins is hitting .327 with a .449 on-base percentage and a .827 slugging percentage.

Williams has also been impressive. In 65 games in the majors, he's hitting .292 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs. Williams had a bit of a reputation for not hustling in the minors. But his work ethic and energy level have been outstanding in the majors. He competes every play. In fact, the whole team did Tuesday night. The bullpen picked up 10 innings and allowed just one run that made the comeback and the win possible.

"We battled," Williams said. "This says a lot, especially for a team in last place. We're constantly trying to compete each and every day. These guys are hungry and they want to show they deserve to be up here. Tonight just shows we fight and we compete.

"We had two walk-offs today. I think that was the first time in the history of baseball that's taken place. It was a two-celebration game. I'm just glad one of them counted."

Healthy Jerad Eickhoff says, 'The sky is the limit'

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AP Images

Healthy Jerad Eickhoff says, 'The sky is the limit'

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jerad Eickhoff is an important man in this Phillies season. He needs to be closer to the guy who pitched to a 3.65 ERA in 197 1/3 innings in 2016 than the one who had a 4.71 ERA in 128 innings last season.

It all starts with good health. Eickhoff, 27, missed time with an upper-back strain and a nerve issue near his right shoulder last season.

He is healthy now and has made a tweak in his mechanics to ease pressure on his shoulder. He made his spring debut with two hitless, scoreless innings in a 6-0 exhibition win over the University of Tampa on Thursday (more on the game here). Eickhoff threw 17 pitches, 14 of which were strikes. He struck out two, walked none and hit a batter. 

“No matter what game it is that you pitch in, you get that intensity, there’s a hitter in the box, you still get butterflies being back at it,” Eickhoff said. “Today was a big day, facing some competition. The live batting practice was checking off the first box. A game setting was kind of the second box, so I think the sky is the limit from here. I feel great.”

Eickhoff developed a mechanical flaw last season as his body would often fall toward first base after delivering the ball. That put pressure on his shoulder. He has tried to correct the flaw this winter by holding his glove a little higher before he releases the ball. That helps him get going toward home plate.

If healthy, Eickhoff will be in the starting rotation. (Former bench coach Larry Bowa is high on him). But he’s taking nothing for granted.

“I try to approach every spring like I’m trying to win a job,” Eickhoff said. “I have something to prove every year.”

Notes
• Andrew Knapp caught and batted leadoff. He worked a walk to lead off the game and that impressed manager Gabe Kapler. Kapler advised not to read into batting order positions this early in camp. 

“These are practice settings,” he said.

• The Phillies play their Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Rotation candidates Nick Pivetta and Mark Leiter Jr. are expected to get some work. Non-roster invite Francisco Rodriguez, he of the 437 career saves, could also get an inning.

Future closer? Power-armed Seranthony Dominguez dazzles in opener

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USA Today Images

Future closer? Power-armed Seranthony Dominguez dazzles in opener

CLEARWATER, Fla. — This was a nice little glimpse of the future.

Seven of the eight pitchers used by the Phillies in Thursday’s 6-0 exhibition win over the University of Tampa were prospects who likely need a little more time in the minors, but could someday be mainstays in Philadelphia.

Jerad Eickhoff started and pitched two scoreless innings (see story). After him, prospects Jose Taveras, Tom Eshelman, Franklyn Kilome, Enyel De Los Santos, Seranthony Dominguez, Cole Irvin and Ranger Suarez kept the shutout intact. None of the Phillies’ pitchers walked a batter, though Eickhoff did hit one.

“No walks, that’s fairly unusual for spring training,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It was like Command City. Guys were on top of it.”

Kapler singled out Dominguez, a strong-bodied, power-armed, 23-year-old right-hander who earned a spot on the 40-man roster in November. Dominguez allowed a leadoff single in the seventh then came back with three swinging strikeouts, all on high-80s sliders.

“He maintained his composure, had electric stuff and the bravado of a seasoned veteran,” Kapler said.

Dominguez, signed out of the Dominican Republic for $25,000 in 2012, touched 100 mph with his fastball as a starter in the Florida State League early last season. He ended up missing time with biceps tendinitis, but is healthy now. The Phillies have reduced his pitch mix from four to three (fastball, slider, changeup) and he will convert to the bullpen, where he profiles as a potential closer, this season. He is likely to open at Double A Reading. Don’t rule out seeing him in Philadelphia later this season if all goes well.

“As a bullpen guy, he could be a quick mover,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

“He has a top-of-the-scale fastball,” director of player development Joe Jordan said. “He has a chance to really dominate in the late innings.”