Ya think Rhys Hoskins needed a game like this?
Hoskins, who had two extra-base hits in his last 80 plate appearances entering the series finale against the Pirates, had a stand-up triple in his first at-bat Wednesday and an RBI double in his second.
Those were two of the Phillies' eight extra-base hits in a lopsided 12-3 win over lowly Pittsburgh. Finally, they overpowered a weak team, the way they were unable to do against the White Sox, Padres and Marlins earlier this month.
Hoskins was a candidate to get the night off Wednesday. It would have been a natural time for it with the Phillies off Thursday. Manager Gabe Kapler could have sat Hoskins to give him 48 full hours off his feet and to clear his head. Instead, he had a talk with Hoskins and decided to keep him in the lineup when the player was adamant he didn't need a blow.
It paid off. Hoskins got to move on quickly from the costly error he made in Tuesday night's loss, and he found success with a more simplified approach.
"I was joking with somebody, I think the only thing I did different today was get a haircut," Hoskins said, before explaining what he did do differently Wednesday night.
"I think I was a little bit more narrow at the plate, almost trying to swing 80 percent. I've really tried to be boring in BP the last week or so. I guess tonight was just the night it seemed to click in a game."
"Just my stance, really trying to control the weight distribution in my legs. Just really trying to be aware of where the barrel is. Some guys — guys in this clubhouse and around the league — can swing as hard as they can and still know where (the barrel) is. I've found that throughout my short career, that usually is not the case (for me). Really tried to settle down even more than usual and it got me back to where I needed to be."
Hoskins' leadoff triple in the second inning was to the opposite field, a rarity of late. It was a promising sign. He has always been a pull-heavy hitter but it's gotten even more exaggerated this summer, with Hoskins crushing so many pitches left of the foul pole and popping up more than ever before. He had 12 hits in his last 100 at-bats entering Wednesday's game and many Phillies fans were wondering if or when the worm would turn for Hoskins, whose power and offensive effectiveness did not suddenly disappear in mid-July.
"I thought he made good decisions and seemed like he was on the fastball all night," Kapler said. "The other thing I noticed was how relaxed his body language was and facial expression was, particularly when he got to two strikes. We talked earlier in the day about sprinters — I think if you watch a sprinter in slow motion, you kinda see their face looks like jelly because they're so relaxed. It really looked like Rhys had a lot of weight lifted off his shoulders today. Even from the first at-bat, just comfortable and relaxed at the plate. You could see it from the dugout.
"I think he probably made a conscious decision to stay relaxed."
If you've watched the Phillies this season, you've likely noticed the violent swings taken by Bryce Harper. You've likely noticed the ABs when Hoskins has appeared to grip the bat as tightly as possible. Those are signs of pressing, trying to do too much, trying to hit a ball 500 feet.
Relaxation has always been a key for hitters. A looser grip can create more bat speed and barrel accuracy. Sometimes it's easier said than done.
Confidence is another major key. Hoskins and the Phillies gained some on Wednesday night. Yes, the 2019 Pirates stink. But this was a teamwide onslaught, and these same eight hitters, in order, will likely make up the lineup Friday night when the Mets are in town.
J.T. Realmuto homered, tripled and singled. Corey Dickerson homered. Cesar Hernandez had three hits, two of which were doubles. Harper reached base three times, singling twice. Adam Haseley had a pair of hits and drove in two runs.
"Offensively, I thought we were really aggressive. We knew we had a young guy on the mound and I thought we attacked him from the get-go," Hoskins said. "Put them on their heels a little bit and we never let up."
The Phillies are 69-63 with 30 games to play. They are two games behind the Cubs, 1½ games ahead of the Brewers and two ahead of the Mets, who followed five straight wins with five straight losses.
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