Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez went with the numbers in having a left-handed reliever face Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins with the game on the line Friday night.
Hoskins put those numbers through the wood chipper and when the night ended, the only number that mattered was this:
Phillies 4, Nationals 2.
Hoskins rescued his team from a one-run deficit with a three-run home run with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. Adam Morgan, Pat Neshek and Hector Neris protected the lead as the Phillies improved to 5-2 on the homestand (with two games remaining), 13-6 at home and 18-13 overall. That's the best mark in the NL East (see observations).
"Today, Rhys won the baseball game for us," manager Gabe Kapler said.
Martinez, the Washington manager, did not think Hoskins could win it for the Phillies. That's why he stuck with lefty reliever Dan Jennings against the right-handed hitting Hoskins after Jennings had walked Bryce Harper, the previous hitter, on five pitches to put runners on first and second.
Hoskins hit a 1-1 slider into the left-field seats to give the Phillies the lead.
After the game, Martinez told reporters he was comfortable using Jennings because Hoskins was 0 for 17 with nine strikeouts in his career against sliders thrown by left-handed pitchers.
Overall this season, Hoskins was hitting just .240 with nine strikeouts in 25 at-bats against left-handed pitching as opposed to .289 with a 1.055 OPS against right-handed pitching.
"My reverse splits are frustrating to me because I've usually hit lefties well in my career," Hoskins said. "I was just excited to finally do some damage against a lefty."
Hoskins has 62 homers since his big-league debut on Aug. 10, 2017. That is the most in the NL over that span. Thirty-four of the 62 have either tied the game or given the Phillies a lead.
"It just so happens that I get to be in those spots more often than other guys," Hoskins said. "My job is to drive in runs. But I can only do that if the guys are getting on base."
The Phillies did that in the sixth. Jean Segura, who had another big game with a solo homer in the first inning, started the rally with an infield hit against starter Jeremy Hellickson. Martinez went to Jennings against the lefty Harper. Jennings wanted no part of Harper and Hoskins made the Nationals pay.
It's what a deep lineup is supposed to do.
"The guy is pretty good," Hoskins said of Harper. "I'd probably pitch around him too. At any moment, he can hit one out of the park. The way this lineup is constructed, it's pick your poison. If I don't get the job done, we have an All-Star hitter behind me. I just happened to be the poison they picked tonight."
The Phillies are catching the Nationals at a time when they are down several key players.
Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon are all on the injured list and Juan Soto did not play Friday night because of back spasms.
"It doesn't matter who's in there, it's a game we have to win," Hoskins said. "Winning games at home against the division is important."
Jerad Eickhoff pitched five innings and allowed just one run. He did not figure in the decision. He was lifted at 87 pitches because after an injury-marred season last year, the Phils are still monitoring his workload, Kapler said.
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