Matt Olson

Rhys Hoskins scuffles as Phillies drop series to Athletics

Rhys Hoskins scuffles as Phillies drop series to Athletics

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Turns out, Rhys Hoskins is human after all. 

After a torrid series against Miami that prompted teammate Nick Williams to declare the rookie sensation “an alien,” Hoskins showed he’s susceptible to the bad stretches that all major league hitters go through. 

A weekend that matched two of the hottest rookie sluggers in the game ended up one-sided, as Oakland’s Matt Olson homered for the third straight day and the Athletics took the rubber game of the three-game series, 6-3, Sunday with the help of former West Chester University star Joey Wendle’s grand slam (see observations)

The game at Citizens Bank Park ended when Blake Treinen fanned Hoskins with a runner on. Hoskins went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. He struck out six times and went 0 for 11 in the three-game series. 

“I think he just expanded the zone,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “I think up until the past few days, and this is just my perspective on it, I think he was just letting it happen. And I think in the last few days he was trying to make it happen.” 

Hoskins had 18 homers in 34 games entering Friday night, with six homers in the previous six games. He spent the weekend mostly flailing away and showed his frustration when he flung his bat after flying out to right in the fifth inning. 

“I think he got a little bit overanxious,” Hoskins said. “But every hitter goes through periods like that.”

Maikel Franco went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs for the Phillies, who led 3-2 when Henderson Alvarez left with no outs in the sixth inning after what was a successful return to the big leagues following a two-year injury absence. 

But Wendle later crushed a first-pitch mistake slider from Edubray Ramos into the right-field seats. It was the Avon Grove High School product’s second career home run. 

Alvarez gave up four runs and four hits with two walks and four strikeouts, using a fastball that topped out at 93. Besides back-to-back homers by Chad Pinder and Olson in the fourth, Alvarez was pleased with his performance. 

“I was a little nervous, I have to admit,” he said through an interpreter. “It was almost like my first time in the big leagues.”

It was a milestone in a difficult journey for the 2014 NL All-Star who threw a no-hitter for the Marlins in 2013. Multiple shoulder surgeries kept him out of the majors for two years. He was playing with the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League when the Phillies signed him to a minor league deal last month.  

“A lot of people didn’t believe in me. A lot of people thought that my career was over,” Alvarez said. “It’s great to be here and I’m grateful to the Phillies for giving me the opportunity to show not only them but everyone, that I’m still good, that I can still pitch. Even after my surgeries, I feel fine and I want to keep showing everyone I’m ready to go and can still pitch.”

Alvarez could get two more starts as he hopes to land a spot in the 2018 rotation. 

“That’s the point,” Alvarez said. “I’m working hard to at least give them a reason to think about me.”

Phillies-Athletics thoughts: Facing a poor man's Rhys Hoskins

Phillies-Athletics thoughts: Facing a poor man's Rhys Hoskins

Phillies (57-90) vs. Athletics (65-82)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies' three-game winning streak came to an abrupt end on Friday night. Daniel Mengden and the Athletics took down the Phils in a 4-0 game as J.P. Crawford was the only hitter to reach base. 

Looking to get back in the win column, the Phillies toss out Ben Lively against Kendall Graveman on Saturday night. Here are some thoughts to ponder before first pitch:

• This isn't very revolutionary, but it usually helps to have more than two hits. After pulverizing the Marlins for three nights with hit after hit, coming up with just two hits against a team that came in with a 4.81 team ERA is embarrassing. The Phillies have been outscored plenty of times this year (90 times to be exact), but this type of game has been the exception and not the rule, especially since Rhys Hoskins came along.

• Speaking of Hoskins, there isn't too much to say about him that hasn't already been said about Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger this year and Mark McGwire 30 years ago. Guys just don't come into the league mashing like this. 

Perhaps the best stat to show Hoskins' ridiculous start is his line against left-handed pitching: In 37 plate appearances, he's gone 6 for 25 with 11 walks, 1 HBP and just five strikeouts. Oh yeah, all six hits are home runs. That means he's gone 0 for 14 on balls in play but still has an OPS of 1.446. That's ... unreal. 

• It gets lost in the Hoskins-mania but Nick Williams has been quite good as well. His walk and strikeout rates are both slightly better than his Triple-A numbers and he's hitting .296/.350/.496. He certainly strikes out more than Hoskins and hits fewer home runs, but he's still an exciting young player on this roster. 

He's had issues in the outfield, but that's mostly occurred when he's played out of position in centerfield. Put him in right and he should be fine moving forward. 

• Lively has been a throwback to pitchers of old this year. As strikeouts become the name of the game, a guy who fans only 14.4 percent of batters and relies on balls in play, particularly plenty of flyballs, tend to be phased out. But as he did at the minor league level, he's induced plenty of weak content, keeping a lot of pop-ups near the infield.

He's given the Phillies length in nearly every outing and has given them a chance to win outside of a poor start against the defending champion Cubs. His last time out, the 25-year-old righty held a potent Nationals lineup to just three runs in eight innings while striking out seven, one shy of his career-best. 

• Graveman joined the Athletics in the ill-conceived trade that sent Josh Donaldson to Toronto. He's been a fairly average starter for the Athletics. Like Lively, he allows a lot of balls in play but has still been fairly successful. How? The opposite way of Lively: Plenty of groundballs. 

He keeps the ball on the ground with a heavy dose of his 94-mph sinker while also turning to a cutter, curveball and changeup. He's never faced the Phillies before and only Hyun Soo Kim (1 for 3) has faced him before. The Phils have to hope they'll have more success against this unknown for them than they did with his rotation mate on Friday.

• While Mengden and his mustache were the story on Friday, Matt Olson also gave the Phillies a dose of what he's been doing in recent weeks. The rookie has essentially been a left-handed poor man's Rhys Hoskins, drilling 19 home runs in 184 PAs. 

His stance starts with his hands and bat essentially over home plate and somehow he makes it work with a non-absurd strikeout rate considering the amount of movement in his swing. He's gotten zero attention because he's in Oakland and comes after Hoskins, Bellinger and Judge already lit the majors on fire in their first taste. It's no longer that insane to see a player do this in their first sample of the majors.

• After Friday night, the A's have now won seven of nine and are playing some of their best baseball. They aren't a good team, as their record would suggest, but their offense is showing some life recently, particularly since Olson started to take off.  

• Their bullpen is still very beatable. Santiago Casilla was removed from the closer role for a reason. Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle were both traded to Washington. And new closer Blake Treinen throws an upper-90s sinker that makes teams fawn over his potential, but he still has blown three saves in 10 opportunities.

• Before this series, the Phillies last played the A's in 2014, losing two of three in Oakland that September. The Phils are 7-9 vs. the Athletics all-time. The two teams, of course, used to share Philadelphia before the A's moved to Kansas City in 1955.