CINCINNATI — Late Sunday night, Scott Kingery smacked a three-run double at Citizens Bank Park to help the Phillies rally to beat the New York Mets.
Less than 12 hours later, he was in bed in a downtown Cincinnati hotel room when his alarm rang.
Kingery cursed the thing.
“I pretty much said, ‘How long can I lay here until I actually have to get up?’“ he said. “It was tough.”
Kingery made the 10 o’clock bus to Great American Ball Park for the Phillies’ Labor Day matinee against the Cincinnati Reds and for the second game in a row had a huge hit. His two-run homer in the second inning woke the Phillies up and put them on track for a 7-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
The Phillies did not arrive at their hotel until 2 a.m., but they managed to play a pretty sound game that featured excellent pitching from starter Drew Smyly and three relievers and four homers from three of the offense’s most prominent players.
“We all know our backs are against the wall,” manager Gabe Kapler said after the win. “To have our guys come out after a long night like last night and bring such strong energy. Guys were really up from the first pitch of the game and that speaks to the character of the guys in that room.”
All seven of the Phillies’ runs came on home runs. Kingery, Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper all clouted two-run shots. Hoskins also had a solo shot in his fifth career multi-homer game.
Kingery got it all started when he took Anthony DeSclafani deep to right-center.
“Any time you can help the team out like that early in the game and help get things rolling, it’s always nice,” Kingery said. “Little sleep, you’re tired, I was happy to get that home run. It felt like my eyes were half closed there, but two big wins for us. Hopefully, the bats are coming alive and we can keep them alive.”
Great American Ball Park is one of the coziest in baseball and the ball flies in the place. For a hitter, stepping in the batter’s box at the place is like a shot of caffeine.
“Right at the top,” Kingery said with a laugh when he was asked where the Reds’ home park rated for hitters.
“I didn’t think my ball was going out and it just kept going. Last year, I can’t remember who told me this, but someone said if you don’t leave this park without at least one home run then you did something wrong. Everyone knows this is a good place to hit.”
The Phillies did not pick up any ground in the NL wild-card race as the Cubs rallied to beat Seattle. With 26 games remaining, the Phils are 2 ½ games back.
There were a number of positives in Monday’s win, from Smyly figuring some things out (he had a good curveball) after a poor August to reliever Jared Hughes’ five crucial outs against the team that waived him last month.
But the biggest positive might have been the way Hoskins continues to swing the bat after a long and discouraging slump that started right after the All-Star break.
Hoskins has eight hits, including two doubles, a triple and two homers in his last five games. His swing seems less rushed and he’s using the middle of the field more, which is a good sign.
It looks like the Phillies have their cleanup hitter back, or at least on the way back, and that could make a huge difference over these final important weeks.
“He just looks really relaxed at the plate, very confident,” Kapler said. “His swings have been really fluid and easy and obviously he’s driving the ball to all parts of the ballpark.”
Hoskins has found some success by taking his foot off the gas pedal a little. On the advice of his manager, Charlie Manuel and even some teammates, he’s not swinging as hard. Less is more.
“Just a simplification,” Hoskins said. “I think we often screw ourselves in the ground by trying to change some things all the time. I tried to change something that wasn't really a change, right? I'm not going through a swing change. I’m just trying to change the thought process.”
The Phillies haven’t shown the power they were expected to this season. They entered Monday with 170 homers, which ranked 23rd in the majors. Minnesota led the majors with 268.
But with Kingery, Hoskins and Harper — he’s up to 30 homers — all warming, and three more games to play in cozy Great American Ball Park, maybe the Phils can get on a roll. They are six games over .500. They haven’t been seven over .500 since mid-June. Vince Velasquez gets the ball Tuesday night. We’ll see what happens.
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