Phillies

Rhys Hoskins — there's nothing he can't do — leads Phillies' home run barrage

Rhys Hoskins — there's nothing he can't do — leads Phillies' home run barrage

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Rhys Hoskins makes the best cheesesteak in town. He can run the Rocky steps in three seconds flat then knock out 50 push-ups at the top. One-handed. He can bench press the Liberty Bell, dunk on Joel Embiid and part traffic on the Schuylkill with a simple wave of his hand.

He is the most interesting man in Philadelphia. There is nothing he can't do.

And, on Thursday night, he became the first player in baseball history to be asked for his autograph in the dugout ... by a teammate ... during the game.

"He's creating history," said Cameron Perkins, who approached Hoskins with a ball in the dugout and requested an autograph after the rookie slugger belted his nightly homer in the Phillies' 10-0 demolition of the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park (see observations).

"What he's doing is ridiculous. It's fun to watch. It's still underappreciated. I don't think everybody understands how hard it is to do that over and over again."

Hoskins has been with the Phillies since Aug. 10 for a total of 34 games and 118 at-bats. He has 18 home runs, which is just three shy of the team lead held by Tommy Joseph. With 16 games left, he stands an excellent chance of leading the club in home runs — remarkable considering he did not hit his first home run until Aug. 14.

He hit four of them in the Phillies' three-game sweep of the Marlins. The Phillies won the first game in 15 innings then outscored the Marlins, 18-1, over the next two games.

Hoskins is now rivaling Carson Wentz as the hottest autograph in town, so hot that his teammates playfully ask for them in the dugout.

"It's fun," Hoskins said. "I don't think hitting a home run is ever not going to be fun — for everyone. When someone hits a home run, it gives the team a little jolt, a little spark of energy and obviously the long ball was good to us tonight."

Indeed, the Phillies hit four of them — three against Miami's Vance Worley in the second inning.

Jorge Alfaro hit a rising line drive into the second deck in left (459 feet) and Freddy Galvis hit one 414 feet to left-center before Hoskins smacked a two-run shot, his first to the opposite field (see video).

"That was fun," manager Pete Mackanin said of the entire night. "Alfaro hit that bomb, Freddy hit a two-run dinger and Hoskins hit another blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

Clearly, Mackanin is running out of words to describe Hoskins' home run frenzy, which started with 29 in 115 games at Triple A Lehigh Valley.

But Perkins, a teammate of Hoskins in the minors and now in the majors, is not running out of words.

"I know you guys are new to this because he hasn't been up here, but I've been playing with him all year and this is the exact same thing as spring training and Lehigh Valley," Perkins said. "He's so good at putting quality at-bats together even when he gets out or strikes out. He sees a bunch of pitches or he'll walk. He's a very special hitter. He makes it look easy. Sometimes it can be frustrating to watch him because it's hit, hit, hit, hit. It's so hard and he makes it look so easy. He's a very good, very smart hitter."

Perkins came off the bench and hit the Phillies' fourth home run as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. His first big-league homer came against Miami lefty Justin Nicolino and he received a celebratory water-cooler dousing after the game.

"That was pretty cool," Hoskins said. "He put a good swing on it. I heard a couple of guys say they thought he was going to do it on that at-bat. The couple years I played with him he has hit lefties pretty well, so that was a special moment. I'm happy for him. It's something that he’ll always remember."

Perkins confirmed that.

"It's the moment I've been waiting for my entire life," said Perkins, a rookie who will turn 27 later this month. "Everyone wants the dream of having the cooler dumped on them, even though it wasn't as significant as I'd hope in a 9-0 game. But I'll still take it. Everyone dreams of hitting that walk-off home run. But getting the cooler dumped on you and finally getting one is definitely a dream come true."

Perkins will work on getting the ball as a souvenir.

He has a plan.

"If I have to bargain, I'll get Rhys to sign some balls," he said. "I'm sure the person who caught my home run ball would love Rhys' autograph. I'm going to need some of those."

An indefensible decision by Gabe Kapler in Phillies’ biggest game in years

An indefensible decision by Gabe Kapler in Phillies’ biggest game in years

There have been plenty of head-scratching moves made this season by Gabe Kapler, but most of the time, even if the decision was uncommon, the logic was easy to see. 

Kapler’s decision Thursday night — in a must-win game — to use Luis Garcia in the eighth inning with the Phils trailing the Braves by a run? Indefensible. 

In that situation, a one-run deficit has to be treated like a tie. With how shaky Atlanta’s bullpen has been lately, a one-run deficit is far from insurmountable. It’s the kind of scenario that calls for a team’s best or hottest reliever. Worry about the ninth or 10th innings if/when they arrive. 

But instead of using Seranthony Dominguez or a locked-in Hector Neris, Kapler used Garcia, who allowed three runs in his previous outing and had allowed 11 runs in his last 10 2/3 innings. 

Garcia allowed four runs in the eighth and the Phils lost handily. 

After the game, Kapler explained that the Phillies liked how Garcia profiled against the bottom of the Braves’ order, righties they believed Garcia could handle. 

But it wasn’t exactly the bottom of the order. It was the Braves’ 5-6-7 due up. And, quite frankly, it hasn’t mattered this season whether a Phillies pitcher is facing the top or bottom of Atlanta’s order. Kurt Suzuki has killed the Phillies. Ryan Flaherty has killed the Phillies. Johan Camargo has hit them. Dansby Swanson has hit them. There has been no pocket of the lineup the Phillies have handled. 

Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano and Tommy Hunter had already been used. Pat Neshek was unavailable after pitching the previous two nights. But still, Garcia is clearly behind Dominguez and Neris in terms of recent performance. Neris has a 2.57 ERA with more than two strikeouts per inning in 16 appearances since returning from the minors. Even if you burn one in the eighth, you still have the other. 

This decision from Kapler was equivalent to a manager saving his ace in Game 6 of a playoff series so he can pitch Game 7. Well, you have to get to Game 7 first. That’s the priority. Especially when said manager is treating every game like Game 7 of a playoff series, removing starting pitchers in the third or fourth inning and optimizing platoon matchups all night. 

Kapler managed Thursday night with his back against the wall ... until the bottom of the eighth. 

The Phillies’ playoff hopes are on life support. Two more losses in this series and the division goes to the Braves. 

If and when that happens, we’ll remember two instances — opening day and Thursday night — in which Kapler’s team lost an important game with one of its lesser relievers on the mound. 

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The end is near after Phillies beat themselves in most important game of the season

The end is near after Phillies beat themselves in most important game of the season

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ATLANTA — The Phillies’ bid to make the postseason is almost over and they have no one to blame for that but themselves.

They were in control of the National League East, up 1½ games in the division on Aug. 5 then proceeded to lose 25 of their next 40. That put them on life support when they arrived at SunTrust Park on Thursday night to take on the first-place Atlanta Braves in the first of four games.

The Phillies’ pulse is even weaker after an 8-3 loss to the Braves (see first take).

“I think disappointing is the word,” Rhys Hoskins said after the Braves reduced their magic number to four.

Hoskins went on to express hope and confidence. But the Phillies trail the Braves by 6½ games with 10 to play. There are still three games to play in this series. The Braves can close it out by winning two of them.

A consistent weakness

All season long the Phillies have beaten themselves with poor defense and it happened again in the most important game of the season.

A non-play by third baseman Carlos Santana – shifted way to his left – and a questionable decision by Hoskins at first base prevented the Phils from getting out of the first inning with a 1-0 lead. The Braves capitalized on the sloppiness and scored two runs. A wild pitch by Vince Velasquez set up another run in the third. Aaron Altherr wasn’t exactly swift in making a play on a killer double in the seventh, and everything completely fell apart in the eighth as the Braves scored four times, following a hard-hit ball that second baseman Cesar Hernandez could not handle.

The defense let the Phillies down.

“I think that's a fair assessment of the situation,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “There were a number of plays that we could have executed more successfully, for sure.”

Kapler started Altherr in left field for his defense. In the seventh, Dansby Swanson doubled to left against Tommy Hunter and scored the tie-breaking run on a double by Lucas Duda. Could Altherr have held Swanson to a single?

“I think Aaron can be more aggressive getting to that ball,” Kapler said. “It's something I want to talk to him about before I could really assess the situation. I'd like to hear what was on his mind.”

Altherr said he took a cautious route to the ball because he did not want it to get by him.

Hunter blamed no one.

“I made the pitch and he hit it,” the reliever and losing pitcher said.

Bullpen usage in question

Luis Garcia got torched for four runs in the eighth turning a one-run deficit into a five-run deficit.

Why not go to Seranthony Dominguez or Hector Neris to keep the game close in a high-leverage spot?

“We really liked that pocket of the lineup, the bottom of the lineup, for Luis,” Kapler said. “We knew we had to cover potentially more innings and probably most critically, we had planned on using Seranthony and Neris with a tie ballgame or with a lead, given how much they've worked and given how much we may be leaning on them in the next couple of days. That's not to say we weren't doing anything but trying to win tonight's game. Luis, a sinkerball pitcher with right-handed guys at the bottom of the lineup, profiled well. Coming into this year, he was the guy who was going to handle that part of the lineup. Nothing has changed as it relates to our confidence in Luis Garcia. We demonstrated that confidence and it didn't work out.”

And now it’s almost over.

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