Sean Rodriguez

Feisty Sean Rodriguez defends himself, Rhys Hoskins, against the wrath of 'entitled' fans

Feisty Sean Rodriguez defends himself, Rhys Hoskins, against the wrath of 'entitled' fans

Since debuting in the major leagues a little over two years ago, Rhys Hoskins has played hard, he’s played hurt — remember the broken jaw? — and he’s produced. Seventy-seven homers and 217 RBIs in 332 games, to be exact.

Hoskins is now mired in a terrible slump, one that has dragged his batting average down to .233. He popped up with the bases loaded and the game on the line in the ninth inning Monday night and was booed — loudly — on his way back to the dugout.

Hoskins heard the boos. It was impossible not to. But they did not bother him.

“We won the game,” he said. “We won the game.

“I couldn’t care less about (the boos). We won the game. Yeah, we won the game.”

The Phillies won the game, 6-5, over the Pittsburgh Pirates in 11 innings at Citizens Bank Park because the guy a couple lockers down from Hoskins came through with an absolutely huge walk-off home run.

Pirates reliever Michael Feliz got Sean Rodriguez to swing through a pair of sliders to run the count to 1-2. Feliz, obviously, was feeling pretty good about getting Rodriguez to swing through a third straight slider so he threw the pitch again.

This time, Rodriguez made him pay with a game-winning line drive over the left-field wall.

Rodriguez sprinted around the bases and was mobbed at home plate. After the game, party lights, freshly mounted to the clubhouse walls, shot beams of color around the happy room. The Phillies earned some celebration time because they rallied for three runs in the eighth, all on a pair of homers, survived a blown save from Hector Neris in the ninth, then walked it off with another homer in the 11th.

The victory left the Phils at 68-62, just a game off the pace in the wild-card race, with 32 to play.

“Every game is critically important right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Tonight felt like a playoff game and I think our players treated it like a playoff game and gave everything they have and I think that’s going to be the case every night going forward.”

The victory had to have been doubly sweet for Kapler. Over the last month, coinciding with Maikel Franco’s being sent to the minors twice, Kapler has been questioned and criticized for keeping Rodriguez on his bench. The manager has staunchly defended keeping Rodriguez because he likes the player’s versatility in the field and his quality of at-bats as a pinch-hitter.

But lately at the plate — albeit in limited at-bats — Rodriguez has struggled. He was 1 for 20 with 11 strikeouts in the month of August before his game-winning homer.

“He put a pretty good swing on that ball,” Kapler said. “He had a nice at-bat earlier in the game, a big walk for us, as well. He played some good center field for us. I understand some of the criticism and I was really happy for Sean. When he came off the field, it was a pretty happy moment for him. I think he was even taking some heat from his teammates for taking a long time to get in the clubhouse after a long celebration. Our team was as happy for Sean as they could possibly be.”

Rodriguez was also happy.

“It’s always nice to contribute to a ‘W,’ “ he said. "The guys in here want to win."

Rodriguez’ recent struggles leading up to his big moment of triumph were a natural part of the narrative Monday night. But Rodriguez got a little feisty and defensive when reporters mentioned those struggles. He alluded to the difficulty of staying sharp when a hitter gets only limited at-bats. He mentioned the difficulty of facing top relievers late in games.

“I’m just defending that position, not me as a player, per se,” Rodriguez said. “I think that’s the misconception a lot of people make. ‘Well, you can’t struggle. You can’t go that bad.’ Every hitter does it. The only difference is when someone is playing every day, there’s a chance that they’re going to sneak a hit in here and there.”

Rodriguez admitted that he was aware that his spot on the roster had become an issue with fans and critics alike.

“Who’s looking bad and feeling entitled when you hear stuff like that?” he said. “I’m not the one booing. I’m not the one screaming. I’m not the one saying pretty disgusting things at times. That seems pretty entitled. You’re just making yourself look pretty bad as an individual, as a person, as a fan. That’s tough.

"There’s still a lot of good fans, though. Those are the ones I hear and pay attention to. The few that might be behind home plate and say, ‘Hey, Sean, keep doing your thing. Don’t worry about it. Things will come around.’ “

They came around for Rodriguez on Monday night.

Maybe Hoskins, hitting .164 since the All-Star break, will be next.

Rodriguez is pulling for his teammate to turn the boos into cheers.

“The guy has 60-plus homers in three years and you’re booing him,” Rodriguez said. “Explain that to me. That’s entitled fans. I don’t know if it’s them feeling like they’re owed something. There’s nobody in here that doesn't want to win. That’s what sucks. When we hear that, we’ve learned to try and take that and use it like we should. But if I sat here and just buried you every single day verbally, is that helping?”

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Happy birthday Maikel Franco, now go to Allentown

Happy birthday Maikel Franco, now go to Allentown

Today is Maikel Franco’s 27th birthday and his present is an all-expenses-paid trip to Allentown. 

Franco was again optioned to Triple A as the Phillies welcomed Bryce Harper back from paternity leave Monday. 

It is the second time in 20 days that Franco has been sent back to Triple A. He had spent the previous four seasons exclusively in the majors. 

Why was Franco the casualty again? The Phillies’ reasoning is likely that September is just five days away so he can soon be recalled, and that this option was preferable to designating Sean Rodríguez, Logan Morrison or Brad Miller for assignment. 

Rodriguez has not built much goodwill from this fan base because he has not hit. He offers positional versatility but has not been effective for the Phillies as a starter or pinch-hitter. Theoretically, Rodriguez has a skill set the Phillies could use — plays multiple positions, has hit lefties in the past — but in reality, he has not helped the Phillies in the batter’s box this season.

Franco is not long for this organization. He is a candidate to be traded (for a meager return) or non-tendered this offseason. He simply has not improved. He doesn’t reach base enough, he doesn’t hit lefties, he doesn’t offset his low batting average with enough power, and his range at third base is limited. 

That said, Franco is still a more dangerous hitter than Rodriguez, who has one hit since July 30. 

On Sept. 1, rosters expand. The Phillies will call up a third catcher (Nick Hundley?), several relievers and a few more bench pieces like Franco, Nick Williams and Jose Pirela. 

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Phillies waste big opportunity and if it continues they'll be looking up at the Mets

Phillies waste big opportunity and if it continues they'll be looking up at the Mets

The ol’ schedule maker threw a nice layup in the Phillies’ direction this weekend.

Or so it seemed.

Three games against a lowly Chicago White Sox club that entered the series with just four wins in 20 games since the All-Star break. Two games against starting pitchers with ERAs over 5.00 and one against a starter with an ERA over 6.00.

Time to make some hay.

Or not.

The Phillies continued their maddeningly inconsistent play by losing two of three to the White Sox. The opportunity lost weekend ended with a 10-5 defeat in the series finale on Sunday.

“Tough weekend,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’re not getting enough hits in big spots. We’re not making enough pitches. We’re not doing enough collectively to win baseball games the last three days. We’re a better team than this.”

Are they really?

The Phillies went 33-22 in their first 55 games of the season and were in first place by 3 ½ games in the NL East.

Over their last 56 games, they are 25-31, seven back in the division and in the thick of a wild-card race loaded with flawed clubs.

Don’t look now, but the Phils are only three games ahead of the fourth-place New York Mets in the division. The Mets have firepower in the starting rotation and they’ve won nine of 10.

The Phillies hit just .192 (25 for 130) over weekend and were 5 for 26 (.192) with runners in scoring position. They left 27 men on base. They were on their way to being held to three or fewer runs for the 12th time in 21 games on Sunday before newcomer Corey Dickerson clubbed a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.

“I thought they threw the ball well,” Bryce Harper said. “We haven’t seen any of those guys, really. When you’re playing the American League, it’s definitely a tough task to figure those guys out immediately. I thought the first game got away from us, the second game we were able to come back and win that, and today we just got beat.”

The Phillies were beaten in one inning. Drew Smyly, who had given up just one run over 13 innings in his first two starts with the club, was tagged for five runs in the second inning, four on a two-out grand slam by Leury Garcia.

Garcia hit a 1-1 curveball left over the heart of the plate.

“I have to do a better job ending that inning and keeping it at a one-run game,” Smyly said.

Smyly said the loss stung. He pitched five innings. He was perfect in four of them but imperfect in the second inning when he gave up three singles, a walk and the grannie.

“This one stings because I feel like I was one or two pitches away from a much different outcome,” Smyly said.

Earlier in the day, the Phillies sent Maikel Franco, their opening day third baseman four straight seasons, to Triple A. It was a jarring move, but Franco was about to lose more playing time to Scott Kingery and the Phillies wanted a more versatile player on their bench. They activated Brad Miller from the injured list and kept right-handed hitting Sean Rodriguez over Franco (see story).

The Phils cut the White Sox’ lead to two runs in the sixth inning and Rodriguez had a chance to reward the brass’ faith in him when Kapler called on him to pinch-hit with two runners on base. Rodriguez bounced into a double play and the White Sox pulled away with five runs against the bullpen after that.

“It was a big play in the game,” Kapler said. “Nobody is more frustrated in that than Sean.”

The Phillies went 4-5 on the homestand. They play their next seven games in Arizona and San Francisco.

What type of shape will they be in when they come back home?

Will they be looking up at the Mets?

“We have to go out there and not really worry about what happened today,” Harper said. “Of course, we lost the series and you never want to do that. But just go into Arizona and have to turn the page as quick as possible. Get past this weekend and go out there and play Arizona and beat them, hopefully. Then go to San Fran for a big four-gamer.”

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