You've heard in recent years all about the Home Run Derby curse. Whenever a Derby participant struggles out of the All-Star break, the narrative is always, "His swing must have been negatively affected by the Home Run Derby."
A few weeks ago in Baltimore, Gabe Kapler laughed it off.
"I think it's a story the baseball world tells itself," he said.
Well, Rhys Hoskins has not only been unaffected by the Derby, he also thinks it's helped him.
Hoskins homered again Wednesday, his fourth in the last five games. He's been locked in since the All-Star break and his slugging percentage has risen from .452 to .486.
"I think it kind of forced me to be aggressive to the pull side in the Derby," Hoskins said. "I haven't done that very well this year. For whatever reason, I've been a little more passive on the inner-half of the plate. In the Derby, I was able to pull balls more true and keep the ball a lot straighter instead of hooking the ball. It seems to be carrying over."
So that whole Home Run Derby curse, it's much ado about nothing?
"One-hundred percent," Hoskins said. "I think so."
Hoskins hasn't had as insane a season as he did in 2017 when he took the league by storm with an unprecedented rookie power display. But he's been a productive offensive player for the Phillies. He's the only player in the National League with as many homers (18), RBI (65) and walks (56) as he has.
Hoskins was intentionally walked Wednesday, two plate appearances after his 401-foot bomb to left-center. That fifth-inning IBB was the Phillies' first walk of the game, but they had made starter Walker Buehler work hard all afternoon.
Andrew Knapp began the game with a 13-pitch at-bat that resulted in a strikeout looking. Kapler, Hoskins and starting pitcher Jake Arrieta all agreed that Knapp's long AB set the tone for the game.
"I really believe that the most important at-bat of the game was Knapp's strikeout at the beginning of the game," Kapler said after the Phillies' 7-3 win (see first take).
"Look, I've been asked a ton this season about strikeouts, are we striking out too much? And of course, we always want to put the ball in play, but man, you throw an at-bat like that on the pitcher and we're looking to get the pitcher out early. That's exactly what you're looking for out of a leadoff hitter. And in many ways, we owe the fact that [Buehler] was out of that game to Knapp's at-bat."
Here's a remarkable stat: In 48 of their 101 games this season, the Phillies have knocked the opposing starting pitcher out of a game in five innings or less. Nearly half the time.
"I think we're past the narrative of, 'Are we a good team?'" Hoskins said. "I think to be able to take two of three from the Dodgers, take two of three from the Padres as well, I think we're here to stay and it's exciting. We've got a lot of good contributions from everybody this whole series. A complete team series win."
It's the last week of July and the Phillies have the second-best record in the National League. Yes, seriously.
Start believin’ 🤘🏼 #BeBold— Rhys Hoskins (@rhyshoskins) July 25, 2018