Is the Philadelphia sporting highway big enough to accommodate both the Wentz Wagon and the Rhys Rover?
Rhys Hoskins did it again on Friday night. He clubbed his ninth home run in just his 54th big-league at-bat — that's the quickest in major-league history — to get the Phillies on their way to a 7-1 win over the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
Hoskins' homer was a game-changer. The Phillies trailed 1-0 after Kyle Schwarber took Jerad Eickhoff deep in the top of the first inning. The Cubs' lead did not last long as Hoskins lined a two-run homer into the left-field seats with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. The Phillies never relinquished the lead.
"That was huge," Eickhoff said of Hoskins' quick-strike blast. "It's a whole new game. It got us going and it rallied those guys in the field and back in the dugout."
The home run gave Hoskins 21 RBIs in his first 16 big-league games.
"We kind of just look at each other with blank stares when he does something like he's doing," Eickhoff said. "It's really cool to see. We're fortunate to have him on the team."
Hoskins hit 38 homers at Double A Reading last season. He now has 38 this season — he had 29 in Triple A before coming up — with more than a month to go.
"It's pretty cool," manager Pete Mackanin said of Hoskins' torrid debut. "Very impressive. He just gives you quality at-bats. That’s what we're looking for. He looks like a professional hitter."
Though he loves what Hoskins is doing, Mackanin is keeping his excitement in check.
"You remember, Tommy Joseph came out of nowhere and hit a ton of home runs early [last season], so I don’t want to get overly excited," Mackanin said. "But you can just tell by Rhys' approach at the plate that he has a good idea what he's doing. And for a guy that's playing out of position — it obviously hasn't affected him."
Hoskins, 24, is a first baseman by trade. He has been playing left field since his arrival in Philadelphia.
But it's his bat that has stood out.
"You get into those zones," Hoskins said. "You can't really explain it. There's a lot of ... no thinking involved. The game is a lot tougher when you miss pitches. I'm not missing for the most part.
"I'm confident in the ability I have. I'm trying to lose myself in the routine and the preparation and let the ability shine through when it's game time.
"It's pretty cool to be mentioned in a sentence that says, 'First ever,' or 'tied for whatever in all of MLB history.' To be mentioned like that is definitely an honor, but I don't know if it has hit me yet."
Eickhoff lasted just five innings because of a high pitch count. His fastball averaged under 90 mph — everyone says he's healthy — so he had to rely on his bread-and-butter curveball to pitch around eight baserunners and a couple of jams. He struck out Ian Happ on a curveball with the bases full to end the fifth. That was a big out.
Eickhoff got all the run support he needed from Hoskins in the first, but Cesar Hernandez clubbed a three-run triple in the second inning and Freddy Galvis followed with an RBI single to give the Phillies breathing room. The hits by Hernandez and Galvis got them off the hook for some bad base running in the fourth.
On Thursday, the Phillies blew a five-run lead in the middle innings and lost to Miami. The lead held up this time thanks to relievers Hoby Milner, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris. They combined on four scoreless innings.
Morgan continued to shine with two scoreless frames, five strikeouts and a fastball that hit 97 mph on the gun. The lefty threw 28 pitches and just five were balls.
"Throwing 95 to 97 makes his secondary stuff better," Mackanin said. "He threw 12 sliders, 11 for strikes. If you can do that, you're going to be effective."
Morgan has given up just one run over his last 12 1/3 innings. He has 18 strikeouts and two walks over that span.
Morgan's successful run has been a little overshadowed by Hoskins' spectacular arrival. Heck, Hoskins has stolen the spotlight from everyone on the team. He's still not as big as Carson Wentz on Philadelphia's sporting highway. But the way things are going ...