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.