Phillies

A big win for the Phillies and a big steak for Rhys Hoskins

A big win for the Phillies and a big steak for Rhys Hoskins

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NEW YORK — Steak? Lobster? Or perhaps a good ol’ juicy burger drippin’ with cheese and all the fixin’s?

Whatever Rhys Hoskins wants, he gets.

So says Aaron Nola.

“I’m buying him dinner tomorrow,” Nola said.

Hoskins clubbed a tie-breaking, solo home run in the top of the eighth inning to lift Nola and the Phillies to an important 4-3 win over the New York Mets in the opener of a three-game series Friday night at Citi Field (see first take).

The home run defined what baseball players call “picking each other up.” Because a half-inning earlier, Nola had given up a solo homer to Dominic Smith that tied the game at 3-3. The home run came on Nola’s 95th pitch and he was looking at a no-decision until Hoskins picked him up in the eighth and ensured the Cy Young candidate's 16th win.

“The guys put up some runs, helped me out,” Nola said. “I gave up three runs. They played great defense behind me. Hoskins' homer was really the icing on the cake.”

The victory was big because it ensured that the Phillies would at least keep pace with first-place Atlanta in the NL East. The Phils left the night 2½ games behind the Braves, who lost, 5-3, to the Diamondbacks in Arizona. The Phils have 22 games left.

“Getting the first one in the series is big, especially on the road,” Hoskins said. “I think I've talked about that throughout the whole year, how it's hard playing on the road. To get the first one, we're pretty confident in the couple of guys (Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez) that are going the next two days, and hopefully, we can kind of ride the momentum of this type of win throughout the rest of the weekend and back home.”

Hoskins’ tie-breaking homer, his team-leading 28th, came on a 1-2 fastball from Tyler Bashlor. Hoskins had been down 0-2 in the count before turning on 97-mph heat. Hoskins had been in an 0-for-14 skid before the home run and he was just 2 for his previous 30.

“Rhys’ homer was huge,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Man, was that enormous. We needed it from him. He needed it for himself. And that’s not to say we don’t have the utmost confidence in him. He is the guy that we absolutely know is going to hit. It injected a lot of life and enthusiasm into the dugout when that happened. The guys were really excited.

“I think it was a special moment for Nola to see that happen and get him the win. Cy Young race, the whole drama of everything that’s going on, a game in a playoff chase with so much on the line — huge for Rhys and obviously huge for Nola and all of us collectively.”

There were other stars in addition to Hoskins and Nola in a game the Phillies had to win.

Seranthony Dominguez and Tommy Hunter delivered shutdown relief to protect a one-run lead in the eighth and ninth innings.

Odubel Herrera came up pretty big with a pinch-hit double that led to a run on a hit by Asdrubal Cabrera in the sixth.

And Carlos Santana continued to swing a hot bat in the season’s biggest games.

Santana capped a 10-pitch at-bat in the third inning with a two-run homer against Steven Matz to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead.

Though he is hitting just .228, Santana has 22 homers and 81 RBIs. His on-base percentage is .350. He has five homers and 14 RBIs in his last 17 games. He is 12 for 36 (.333) in his last nine games.

“Carlos has been impacting the ball all year,” Kapler said. “They haven’t all fallen. He hasn’t always been able to get them into the seats. But he’s driven the ball. So we never lost faith that those balls would start to find holes and now they have.

“The longer you play the more likely the true colors will come out. These are Carlos Santana’s true colors. Great at-bat. Power. Aggressiveness. A rock in the middle of the lineup and in this case at the top of the lineup.”

Nola allowed just three hits and a walk over seven innings. He struck out eight. However, two of the hits that he gave up were home runs. Nola has been mostly brilliant at keeping the ball in the yard this season. He allowed just eight homers in his first 27 starts. He has given up five in his last two.

“Four of the five have been fastballs over the plate,” Nola said. “They've put really good swings on them. I'll take the positive out of them that they're solo homers.”

Nola is 16-4 with a 2.29 ERA in 29 starts. He has 196 strikeouts in 188 2/3 innings. He is locked in a tight Cy Young race with Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, the pitcher the Phillies will face in Sunday’s series finale.

Another impressive stat: Nola is 8-1 with a 1.94 ERA after a Phillies’ loss this season.

Someone should buy him dinner, too.

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Phillies lose 2 players and another game, fall to .500 on the season

Phillies lose 2 players and another game, fall to .500 on the season

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DENVER – The Phillies have not announced their starting pitching rotation for the final weekend of the season, so there’s no official word on whether ace Aaron Nola will pitch again in 2018. He had been scheduled to make his final start on Friday. It’s possible he could move back a day, picking up some extra rest, and pitch Saturday. It’s possible he could be shut down. It’s possible he stays on turn and pitches Friday.

More will be known in the next day or so.

One guy who will not pitch this weekend is Zach Eflin. He was removed from an ineffective start in the third inning Monday night. After the game – an ugly 10-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies – manager Gave Kapler announced that Eflin was removed from the game because he was experiencing soreness in his left side.

Eflin, who gave up five hits and five runs, said he’d been managing the issue for a couple of starts, but it flared in this game. He will travel back to Philadelphia on Tuesday to be examined by team doctors and it's safe to say his season is over.

Eflin, 24, finishes at 11-8 with a 4.36 ERA in 24 starts. The highlight of his season was the month of June. He was arguably the team’s MVP that month, going 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts.

The Phillies did not add starting pitching at the trade deadline and the team collapsed shortly afterward. The club is likely to add starting pitching this winter. Nola and Jake Arrieta’s spots in the rotation will be safe. Eflin will come into camp and compete for a spot in the back half of the rotation. He has the tools to be a successful big-league starter, but needs consistency.

Phillies are dropping

Literally and figuratively. 

In addition to Eflin, outfielder Aaron Altherr went down Monday night when he crashed face-first into the left-field wall trying to make a catch. He suffered a sprained right toe and a bruised right knee. He was also being evaluated for a concussion.

With six games left, he is probably done for the season.

Where they stand

The Phillies have lost five in a row. They are 15-30 since being in first place in the NL East on Aug. 5. They were 15 games over .500 then. They are now at .500 with six games to play and a sixth straight losing season is looming.

A bright spot

Roman Quinn continued to audition in center field. He made a long run and a diving catch in Coors Field’s spacious outfield in the first inning and jetted around the bases for a triple in the eighth. Quinn has game-changing speed. If he can stay healthy — a challenge, always — he could be this club’s opening day centerfielder next season.

And speaking of auditions …

Carlos Santana played third base again. Is there something to this? (see story)

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Carlos Santana at third base in 2019? He’d be open to it

Carlos Santana at third base in 2019? He’d be open to it

DENVER – Carlos Santana started at third base for the 10th time this month for the Phillies on Monday night.

It almost feels like a tryout.

An evaluation.

Manager Gabe Kapler began giving Santana starts at the position in early September because it allowed him to get Justin Bour’s bat in the lineup at first base.

Recently, Kapler has used Santana at third as a way to improve the Phillies’ outfield defense. With Santana at third, Rhys Hoskins can move from left field to his natural first base and Kapler can use a stronger defender in left. On Monday night, he used an outfield of Roman Quinn in center, Odubel Herrera in right and Aaron Altherr in left. It was all about covering the vast green that is the Coors Field outfield.

It’s no secret that Hoskins has struggled defensively in left field. The idea of moving him back to first base next season has been discussed by club officials. Hoskins would be more comfortable there and the Phils could seek a defensive upgrade in left.

But what do you do with Santana, who is signed for two more years at $40 million. The Phils have discussed dealing him this winter, but that might be difficult. Could playing him at third base in 2019 be the solution?

“It’s something that we’ll sit down with a little bit more perspective and a little less emotion and evaluate when the time is right,” manager Gabe Kapler said Monday.

There are variables to consider when weighing the possibility of using Santana at third base full time. One is Manny Machado. The Phillies are going to make a free-agent run at him this winter. He would look good at third base, but he might want to play shortstop and the Phils would probably be open to that to get him. Another is Maikel Franco. He had some big downs and some big ups in 2018. Will the Phils keep him or look to deal him? The guess here is they will look to move him.

The other matter to consider is Santana’s defense. He does not have good range. Would the Phils, already a poor defensive team, be able to live with Santana’s defense at third? They seem to be gathering answers this month.

“I think his performance thus far at third base has been good,” Kapler said. “I don’t know how predictive that is of what we might get from Carlos at third base moving forward.”

Santana, 32, actually began his pro career as a third baseman in the low minors with the Dodgers in 2005. He eventually was moved to catcher and then first base with the Indians.

How would he feel about playing third base next season?

“I’d be open to it,” he said. “I’m prepared for any situation. All I care about is being in the lineup every day. It doesn’t matter if I’m at first or third.”

Rockies 10, Phillies 1

The Phillies, staggering to the finish line, lost their fifth straight game and are now 15-30 since leading the NL East by 1½ games on Aug. 5. They were 15 games over .500 on that date. They are now 78-78 with six games to play. It is the first time they’ve been .500 since April 10. A sixth straight losing season looks to be in the cards.

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