Phillies

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When you're 29 games under .500, a baserunning blunder in the fifth inning of a game you're already trailing by three runs is frustrating in the moment but forgotten within days.

But the Phillies aren't playing for right now, they're attempting to build habits and skills for the future, when baserunning mistakes in the fifth inning of a game actually will matter.

Odubel Herrera made a poor decision in Sunday's 6-2 loss, attempting to tag up from second to third base on a flyball to medium-deep center field by Nick Williams (see Instant Replay). Herrera's mistake was that he did not look at his third base coach or the runner ahead of him. If he did, he would have seen that Juan Samuel had Freddy Galvis hold at third. Galvis held steady and Herrera ran to third anyway, creating an easy putout for the Mets. 

A bases-loaded, no-out situation quickly morphed to first-and-third, two outs.

"The mistake he made was he assumed that Freddy was going to go," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He saw him take off but then he put his head down. The only thing he did is he didn't keep his head up."

 

Another questionable decision Herrera made on the play was not getting himself in a rundown when he did realize Galvis was still at third base. It might not have mattered, but it might also have bought Galvis time to score (which he did anyway on a wild pitch).

"I guess you could say that," Mackanin said. "But with the guy, with the ball closing in on him at third base, there's nowhere to go. He would've run right into him."

Herrera is obviously an enigmatic player. He can hit, he can run, he can throw, he can play defense, but he also swings at a lot of bad pitches and has made plenty of confusing choices on the basepaths. Aside from the miscue Sunday, he's also run through a stop sign and been picked off of third base this season.

But this happens with young players. Not everyone comes up with the instincts of Chase Utley. It should seem to be common sense that the good of Herrera outweighs the bad, but you wouldn't know from the reactions of some Phillies fans at the ballpark or on social media.

"I'd prefer, instead of looking at all the positives and the negatives, I prefer to say that he's more positive than negative and if you look back on the last six, seven weeks, he has not made many mistakes," Mackanin said. "Today was an innocent mistake. He just didn't keep his head up. That's the only thing he did. So I'll take him any day."

Most, if not all managers would. Herrera reached base three more times Sunday and continues to play Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field. 

Since July 3, Herrera has hit .373 with a .432 on-base percentage and 19 extra-base hits in 34 games.

Since June 3, Herrera has hit .342 with a .388 on-base percentage and 35 extra-base hits in 61 games.

So yes, there has been much more positive than negative.

"It's very frustrating, definitely frustrating, because I know I messed up," Herrera said through a translator. "That was a situation for us where we could have tied the game or gone ahead. But I messed up and I have to learn from it."

Herrera noticed the boos.

"When I went to third I heard it. I definitely hear stuff like that," he said. "I try not to pay attention to it because I just try to take the positives out of it, not of that play, of course, but the game, and I just go from there.

"I know I'm little over-aggressive sometimes. I definitely have to be smarter on the bases, I know that. But I want to keep my aggressiveness."

Another player who's been aggressive and anxious at the plate is Rhys Hoskins, who picked up his first major-league RBI in the first inning Sunday and his first hit in the fifth (see video).

It was a much-needed weight off Hoskins' shoulders. He began his big-league career 0 for 12, which was the longest hitless streak by a Phillie to start his career since Chris Coste in 2006. Prior to Coste, you have to go back to the late-1970s.

 

Hoskins, a power hitter who had nearly as many walks as strikeouts at Triple A this season, has walked three times in his first four games but has also expanded the strike zone in RBI opportunities. He wasn't thrilled with his pitch selection during his first series in the majors, especially when he was ahead in the count.

"I think the biggest thing is there hasn't been a whole lot of pitches in the middle of the plate," Hoskins said when asked about the difference between Triple A and The Show. "Guys are willing to nibble and get you to get yourself out, and I've done that before.

"(My approach is) definitely not altered on purpose, I can tell you that. I think I've been a little late and I think that has a lot to do with some of the pitch selection I've swung at. Mechanically, I think I've probably gotten long at times, but I think that probably happens when you try to do too much."

Herrera tried to do too much on the bases. Hoskins has tried to do too much at the plate. This is what young teams go through. The Chicago White Sox, filled with young talent after their summer fire sale, made three outs on the bases Saturday night and lost because of it. Their manager, Rick Renteria, has about 50 games of teachable moments left and so does Mackanin.

Now, the 43-72 Phillies hit the road for a seven-game trip through San Diego and San Francisco against the struggling Padres and Giants. Just as Hoskins, a Sacramento native, has gotten used to the layout of Citizens Bank Park, he now heads to the West Coast to try to produce in a pair of very pitcher-friendly stadiums.

"I'm getting there, I think I'm starting to finally figure out where things are around here," Hoskins said. "So that routine is coming along. I'm getting to know the guys, and how each and every one of these guys in this clubhouse works is just another part of that."