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Phillies-Dodgers observations: Another thrilling rally past MLB leader

Phillies-Dodgers observations: Another thrilling rally past MLB leader

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The legend of Rhys Hoskins continued to grow Tuesday night. The rookie sensation had two big hits — both on full counts — and drove in four of the Phillies' runs in a come-from-behind, 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies entered the game with the second-worst record in the majors. They have rallied to beat the team with the game's best record two nights in a row. And they've done it on nights when the Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish on the mound.

Not too shabby. Two entertaining wins.

• Hoskins drove in the Phillies' first run with another in a long line of impressive at-bats in the sixth inning. Hoskins has an uncanny ability to remain selective at the plate and force pitchers into counts where they have to throw a fastball. He did it again in this at-bat. There were runners on first and second with one out and the Dodgers up, 2-0. Hoskins laid off a breaking ball from Darvish on 2-2 and that ran the count to 3-2. Hoskins then got a down-and-in fastball — 96 mph — and laced it past third baseman Justin Turner and into left field to drive home Cesar Hernandez, who had reached base on an error.

• An inning after he put the Phillies on the board, Hoskins broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run double against hard-throwing reliever Pedro Baez in the seventh. The Phillies tied the game at 2-2 when Odubel Herrera drew a bases-loaded walk against Baez. That brought up Hoskins for an epic at-bat against Baez. Hoskins saw 10 straight, 95-plus-mph fastballs from Baez and fouled off four of them with the count full. He then unloaded on a heater, sending it to left-center and clearing the bases to give the Phillies a 5-2 lead (see story).

• Hoskins saw 30 pitches in the game. He now has 43 RBIs since his debut on Aug. 10. That's the most in the majors over that span.

• Overshadowed by Hoskins-mania: Aaron Nola pitched seven innings of two-run ball. Phillies starters Nola and Nick Pivetta have allowed just four runs in 13 innings over the first two games of the series. They've kept their team alive until the big inning has arrived.

• Aaron Altherr was a bases-loaded hero on Monday night. (His grand slam against Kershaw accounted for all the Phillies' runs in that game.) He had a chance to do some bases-loaded damage in the sixth inning of this game but grounded into an inning-ending double play. Altherr did contribute a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth. That gave Hector Neris a little breathing room in the ninth.

• Darvish registered his 200th strikeout out the season when he got Freddy Galvis in the sixth. He gave up just one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings of work.

• J.P. Crawford led off the decisive seventh inning with a triple. He scored the tying run, but didn't exactly run the bases well as he failed to tag on a fly ball to Curtis Granderson toward the right-field line.

• Herrera stroked his 40th double of the season to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. That's the second most in the NL behind Colorado's Nolan Arenado, who entered Tuesday night with 42.

• Herrera died on third base in that inning. For a moment, it looked like he might score when Altherr lofted a long, well-hit fly ball to center. The ball sounded like a home run off the bat, but was knocked down by a stiff wind and died in Chris Taylor's glove for the third out.

• More good work in this one by Luis Garcia. He has allowed just one run in his last 17 innings.

• There was a cool scene before the game. The Phillies honored prospects Tom Eshelman and Scott Kingery with the Paul Owens Award for being the top minor leaguers in the organization this year (see story). Ten other previous Owens Award winners were in uniform for the game, including Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley and Phillies first base coach Mickey Morandini. The 10 players in uniform joined Eshelman and Kingery in a group picture before the game.

• Kershaw, Darvish ... the Phillies face another formidable pitcher in lefty Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69) on Wednesday night. Wood was an All-Star in July. Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.46) pitches for the Philllies.

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Facing Chase Utley for the first time

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Facing Chase Utley for the first time

Phillies (52-61) at Dodgers (62-49)
10:10 p.m. on CSN

After taking two of three from the Padres in San Diego this past weekend, the Phillies move on to the second half of their six-game West Coast trip tonight when they face Chase Utley and the Dodgers.

1. This is weird
It just didn't seem right when the Phillies faced Jimmy Rollins last season with the Dodgers and this is going to be every bit as odd. The Phils and Dodgers have six games in the next 10 days, so expect to see a lot of Utley in Dodger Blue.

The Phillies traded Utley to L.A. last August for utility infielder/outfielder Darnell Sweeney and minor-league pitcher John Richy. It was one of the weaker returns for the Phils in any of their rebuilding trades, mostly because Utley didn't hit much at all last season.

Utley had a .179/.256/.274 batting line through Aug. 7 last year. Then he had a seven-game stretch in which he went 14 for 26 with five doubles and a homer, and the Dodgers came calling. 

Utley was hot for the Dodgers for the first two months this season. He hit .296/.386/.453 in 184 plate appearances through May 28. He's been cold lately, hitting just .212/.276/.306 over his last 50 games.

Utley slowed down similarly in 2014, when he hit .320 the first two months and .244 after May. He's 37 with a long history of knee problems, so it makes sense that the grind of the 162-game schedule has an affect on him as the season wears on.

2. Winning the close ones
The Phillies continue to outperform their expected win-loss record because of late-game execution. Based on their run differential, they "should be" seven games worse, 45-68 rather than 52-61.

The reason for that disparity is the number of lopsided losses and one-run wins the Phillies have. With two more one-run wins in San Diego, the Phils improved to 23-15 in those games. That's the best record in the National League in games decided by one run and the third-best in the majors, behind only the Rangers (24-8) and Tigers (20-12).

The Edubray Ramos-Hector Neris-Jeanmar Gomez trio in the seventh through ninth innings has been mostly successful and could be a solid late relief corps next year if all three remain with the Phillies through the winter. Ramos and Neris are both hard throwers with impressive secondary pitches — for Ramos it's the slider and for Neris the splitter. And then you have Gomez, a nontraditional closer who offers a different look because he doesn't throw as hard and focuses on pounding the bottom of the strike zone.

Since allowing five runs and recording just one out at Coors Field on July 7, Ramos has allowed one run on eights hits in 12⅔ innings with 12 strikeouts. His ERA is down to 3.20. Neris (2.50) and Gomez (2.61) continue to hold up despite heavy workloads.

3. First look at Urias
The Phillies will face highly-touted 19-year-old lefty Julio Urias for the first time Monday night. Previously the Dodgers' top prospect, Urias is 1-2 with a 4.98 ERA in 10 games (nine starts) this season.

Urias isn't a big guy — he's listed at 6-feet and is probably closer to 5-10. What's made him such an intriguing prospect the last few years is his deception, velocity, and the effectiveness of both his changeup and breaking ball. 

Urias' fastball has averaged about 94 mph this season and can touch 96 or 97. He hides the ball well, which increases the perceived velocity of his heater. And for a teenager to command two offspeed pitches so well is rare.

The Dodgers have refused to include Urias in numerous trades, rumored and completed, the last two years. Maybe it would have made sense for L.A. to offer him to the Phillies last summer for Cole Hamels, but Urias has humongous, almost Clayton Kershaw-like upside. (Almost.) So you can understand the Dodgers' reluctance.

But despite how advanced Urias is at such a young age, his transition to the majors hasn't been smooth. He's pitched six innings only once and allowed a lot of baserunners. In the early going he's been tough on lefties (.209 BA), while righties have hit .318/.380/.457 against him.

4. Eflin faces his former organization
Zach Eflin (3-4, 4.77) makes his 11th major-league start tonight and first against the organization that traded him to the Phillies. Eflin and lefty Tom Windle were the Phils' return in the December 2014 Jimmy Rollins trade. 

Eflin didn't spend long in the Dodgers' organization, though, so it's not like he has this big point to prove. L.A. actually had possession of Eflin for only one day, acquiring him on Dec. 18, 2014 from the Padres in the Matt Kemp trade and dealing him to the Phils the next day.

Three of Eflin's first 10 starts have been rocky. He allowed nine runs in 2⅔ innings in his historically bad MLB debut, and in his last two starts has allowed 13 runs and 22 baserunners in 10 innings.

In the other seven starts, Eflin has a 2.08 ERA, so he's been either really good or really bad. One surprise, so far at least, has been Eflin's groundball rate of 37.1 percent. He's actually induced more flyballs than groundballs. His M.O. in the minors was getting quick outs and keeping the ball in the infield with his sinker.

It's no surprise that Eflin's three worst starts were the games he issued the most free passes. He walked three in his debut, four against the Marlins on July 27 and three against the Giants in his last start. In the other games, he had just five walks in 47⅔ innings.

5. Scouting the Dodgers
The Dodgers' lineup is deeper now than it's been all season with recently acquired Josh Reddick manning right field and catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Justin Turner finally hitting. 

Grandal was hitting .183 as the Dodgers' regular catcher when play began on July 8. Since then, he's hit .364/.475/.727 in 80 plate appearances with seven homers and 15 RBIs.

Turner's hot streak has been much longer. He's hit .327 with a 1.029 OPS, 17 doubles, 16 homers and 46 RBIs over his last 49 games.

And how about this stat to exemplify how quietly dominant the Dodgers' bullpen has been late in games: From innings 7 to 9, Dodgers pitchers have allowed their opponents a .197 batting average. That's the lowest mark in recorded history dating back to 1913. The MLB record is .204 by the Tigers in 1968.

Much of that is owed to Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, who somehow has made only one All-Star team in seven years despite owning a career 2.15 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 13.8 strikeouts per nine. This season, Jansen is 34 for 39 in saves with a 1.29 ERA. He's allowed 24 hits and seven walks in 49 innings with 67 strikeouts.