Phillies

MLB Playoffs: Diamondbacks outslug Rockies in NL wild-card game

uspresswire-diamondbacks-archie-bradley.jpg
USA Today Images

MLB Playoffs: Diamondbacks outslug Rockies in NL wild-card game

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX -- Three bags, four times.

And you wouldn't believe who got in on all the fun for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Spirited reliever Archie Bradley hit a stunning triple in the seventh inning, driving in two runs with one of four three-baggers by Arizona that sent the Diamondbacks past the Colorado Rockies 11-8 in the National League wild-card game Wednesday night.

"I think after today, I've pretty much seen everything," first-year Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. "This was an incredible game."

As he watched his top reliever rounding second base, Lovullo said he thought, "Please stop. We're fine."

But that's not Bradley.

"That's just kind of who I am," he said. "I don't know any other way to play, so I was going to run as hard as I could until they told me to stop."

Paul Goldschmidt launched an early three-run homer and the Diamondbacks built a 6-0 lead before ace Zack Greinke faltered. Colorado climbed back into it and cut it to 8-7 when Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story hit back-to-back homers in the eighth off Bradley, perhaps exhausted from hustling around the bases and shouting in excitement to giddy teammates.

But then A.J. Pollock knocked in two runs with Arizona's fourth triple, this one off closer Greg Holland, as the Diamondbacks scored three times in their half of the eighth to finally put it away.

"Right away all hell broke loose," Colorado manager Bud Black said, "and from then on it was a heavyweight fight."

Arizona advanced to a best-of-five Division Series against the NL West champion Dodgers, a team the Diamondbacks beat the last six times they played. Game 1 is Friday night in Los Angeles.

The Diamondbacks became the first team with four triples in a postseason game since the Boston Americans (now Red Sox) twice hit five during the first World Series back in 1903 against Pittsburgh.

It was that kind of crazy night in the desert as two NL West foes slugged it out. Daniel Descalso also homered for the Diamondbacks, and Ketel Marte tripled twice.

"That's one of the best games I've ever been a part of, if not the best," Goldschmidt said.

Bradley, a high-energy setup man recruited to play quarterback at Oklahoma, went 1 for 4 at the plate this season to raise his career batting average to .098. With two outs in the seventh, he drove a 3-1 pitch from Pat Neshek to deep left-center to give Arizona an 8-5 cushion. It was his first extra-base hit in the majors and the first triple by a reliever in postseason history.

Already a fan favorite for his bushy beard and late-inning relief work, Bradley regrouped from the two solo homers he gave up to get the final two outs of the eighth with the Diamondbacks clinging to a one-run lead.

Fernando Rodney allowed a run in the ninth before closing out Arizona's first playoff game since 2011.

Jake Lamb tied a Diamondbacks postseason record with four hits, all singles, and scored three times.

Jonathan Lucroy doubled twice, scored two runs and drove in one for the Rockies in their first playoff appearance since 2009.

Marte, who came to Arizona with pitcher Taijuan Walker from Seattle for Jean Segura in an offseason deal, became the first player to triple twice in a postseason game since Mariano Duncan did it for Philadelphia against Atlanta in the 1993 NL Championship Series.

The home team won for just the second time in the six NL wild-card games since the one-game format was adopted in 2012. The hosts hadn't even scored in the last three, but the Diamondbacks ended that before their first out.

Goldschmidt, in an 0-for-17 slump to end the regular season, hit the first pitch he saw from ineffective starter Jon Gray into the left-field seats for a three-run shot.

Greinke blanked the Rockies on one hit through three innings but never made it through the fourth.

Colorado, known for its power at the plate, got back into it with small ball -- five hits, four of them singles. Lucroy's two-out RBI double followed by pinch-hitter Alexi Amarista's run-scoring single made it 6-4, and Greinke was finished. He allowed four runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings.

"We know how tough these guys are. We play `em all the time," Goldschmidt said. "Every time we scored, we just said, `We've got to get more, we've got to get more.'"

Left-hander Robbie Ray, a 15-game winner during the regular season, came on for his first relief appearance in three years and threw two shutout innings before giving up a leadoff double to Lucroy just below the home run line in straightaway center in the seventh. Lucroy went to third on a wild pitch before Ray fanned Ian Desmond.

Lovullo replaced Ray with another lefty, ex-Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, to face NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon, who put down a bunt that brought Lucroy home and cut the lead 6-5.

The 25-year-old Gray was 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in his previous five starts, but the Diamondbacks were up 3-0 on him before a good share of the 48,803 in the stands settled into their seats. He lasted just 1 1/3 innings.

Triple threat
The previous pitcher to hit a postseason triple was Dontrelle Willis for the Marlins in 2003.

Moment of silence
There was a moment of silence for victims of the Las Vegas shooting, and a photo was shown on the big screen of one of them, Christiana Duarte, a University of Arizona graduate and former member of the Diamondbacks front office.

Up next
Rockies: Will be right back in Arizona to open the 2018 season on March 29.

Diamondbacks: The Dodgers had the best record in baseball at 104-58 but went 8-11 against Arizona.

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.”