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' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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