Phillies

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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No jitters for Bryce Harper, just an RBI, a stolen base and a little 'glam'

No jitters for Bryce Harper, just an RBI, a stolen base and a little 'glam'

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Everybody's stomach is a little different.

So while Jake Arrieta had a few butterflies before his first start of the spring Tuesday, Bryce Harper's pulse barely quickened.

"Kind of the opposite," Harper said, comparing the feel of his spring debut to Arrieta's. "Spring training is kind of spring training. I don't want to get too high or anything like that. I just want to get out there, stay healthy and compete. When I get to opening day, there's your jitters."

Harper played five innings in right field. He came to the plate three times. He drove home a run with a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat and later walked and struck out. He also stole a base.

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, Harper was still a free agent, mulling offers from the Phillies, Giants and Dodgers. He chose the Phillies on the final day of February and camp exploded with excitement. Back in Philadelphia, the team sold 180,000 tickets within 48 hours of Harper's agreement with the team.

This year, things are a lot different for Harper. He has become a dad. And his hair is a lot longer.

"I'm going to keep it going," he said. "Yeah, keep it flowing. Why not? We'll see what happens."

Harper, of course, isn't the only one in camp with a new look. His pal, the Phanatic, unveiled his on Sunday.

"Hey, man, everybody needs a glam-up sometimes, you know?" Harper said. "Why not? I've got long hair right now. I'm always changing."

The general atmosphere around camp is also different than it was a year ago. Though there's a real sense of faith that the Phillies will improve under new manager Joe Girardi, there's none of the euphoric buzz that accompanied Harper's signing. The attendance for Tuesday's game against Toronto in Clearwater was just 4,004. It was a split-squad game for both teams.

Harper is OK with a calmer spring.

"It's definitely different coming into camp," he said. "It's good knowing I'll be here the next 12 years, a lot more calm, not as crazy, not as many cameras. I'll enjoy that and just get ready for the season."

Harper's spring goal:

"Just be healthy," he said. "Take good routes in the outfield, throw the ball well out there, have good at-bats."

Haseley in protocol

Centerfielder Adam Haseley left the game in Clearwater after hitting his face hard on the ground while attempting a diving catch. Haseley suffered a cut on his forehead, caused by his sunglasses. He was seen walking and talking in the clubhouse after the game but was unavailable for comment to reporters because he had been placed in concussion protocol. His condition will be updated on Wednesday.

The games

Arrieta gave up a single, a walk and a three-run homer in the first inning, but he enjoyed a quick second inning. He admitted to some nerves in the first inning but settled in after that. At this point of camp, all that matters with a starting pitcher is health and Arrieta feels good after having his elbow surgically cleaned out late last season.

The Phillies lost the Clearwater game, 13-6, despite a grand slam from minor-leaguer Jhailyn Ortiz. The Phillies signed Ortiz for $4 million as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in July 2015. He hit just .200 at Single A Clearwater last season but had 19 homers and 65 RBIs in 430 at-bats.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto gunned down a runner trying to steal second base from his knees.

In Bradenton, the Phils beat the Pirates, 6-2. Lefties Ranger Suarez and Damon Jones both pitched two scoreless innings. 

The victories left the Phillies at 3-1-1 in exhibition play.

Zach Eflin starts Wednesday against the Twins in Fort Myers.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Can Roman Quinn change complexion of Phillies' lineup?

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Phillies Talk podcast: Can Roman Quinn change complexion of Phillies' lineup?

Joe Girardi is already impressed by Roman Quinn, who could significantly alter the Phillies' lineup if he can win the CF job. Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman discussed on Tuesday's Phillies Talk podcast.

• How Roman Quinn could change the complexion of the lineup.

• Can Andrew McCutchen be an effective leadoff man if the knee forces him to go station to station?

• How much a fast runner can mess with a pitcher's head.

• Phillies pitchers making clear (without saying it) what they thought of Chris Young and Gabe Kapler.

• Whose side are you on with the Phanatic lawsuit?

• Expectations for Scott Kingery in Year 3.

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