Rhys Hoskins

Aaron Nola comes up aces in Phillies' win over Red Sox

Aaron Nola comes up aces in Phillies' win over Red Sox

BOX SCORE

BOSTON – On a night when their offense did some damage early then went into a long hibernation, the Phillies pulled out an important, 3-2, win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night because they pitched brilliantly.

Aaron Nola delivered a terrific start and Jose Alvarez, Mike Morin and Hector Neris combined for six outs in relief to close out the one-run victory.

Neris survived a ringing leadoff double in the ninth as Boston’s Xander Bogaerts ran into the first out on the bases. He then survived a liner off the bat of Andrew Benintendi that went for a game-ending double play.

The win snapped a two-game losing skid for the Phillies, who entered the game two back in the NL wild-card race.

The Phillies had just seven hits on the night and four of them came in the first inning.

The Red Sox entered the game leading the majors with a .277 team batting average. The Phillies held them to five hits through eight innings. Pretty good.

Quick start, then …

Nothing.

The Phils scored three times against lefty Brian Johnson in the first inning. Two of the runs came on a double by Jean Segura after Rhys Hoskins walked and Bryce Harper doubled. Scott Kingery drove in the third run with a single.

That was it for the Phillies’ inconsistent offense. Starting with two outs in the fourth, Boston’s bullpen retired 15 straight Phillies hitters until Adam Haseley drew a two-out walk in the ninth.

Nola’s night 

He was superb. Just superb.

He pitched seven innings, allowed four hits and two runs. He struck out seven and walked just one. He threw 104 pitches and No. 103 was 94 mph.

Nola was outstanding in protecting a one-run lead in the fifth and sixth innings. Both times, he got three outs with a runner on second base. In the sixth, he retired the Sox’ No. 2, 3, and 4 hitters to get out of trouble. That trio of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez has combined for 82 homers.

Nola has shined in two career starts at Fenway Park. On July 30, 2018, he pitched a very similar ballgame – eight innings, four hits, one run, one walk and six strikeouts. The Phillies lost that game, 2-1.

One mistake

On a night when the offense gave him little margin for error, Nola made one mistake – a first-pitch fastball to Jackie Bradley Jr., with a man on base in the third inning. Bradley ambushed the down-the-middle heater for a two-run homer. Two of the four hits that Nola allowed came in the inning.

The horse

Before the game, manager Gabe Kapler talked about riding Nola every fifth day through the end of the season (see story). Kapler said he wanted to see how this start went before he said anything definitive. It went pretty well.

Lineup stuff

Hoskins was the designated hitter in the American League park. Once again, Kapler looked to optimize Hoskins’ selectivity and on-base skills in the leadoff spot.

J.T. Realmuto got a break behind the plate and started at first base. Andrew Knapp did the catching.

Hoskins’ night

He entered the game hitting just .168 since the All-Star break. He had an infield hit in the fourth inning and walked twice. He is hitting .239 but leads the team with a .380 on-base percentage.

Hoskins ignited the Phillies’ three-run first inning with a leadoff walk.

Up next

Drew Smyly (1-1, 4.71 in five starts with the Phillies) gets the ball Wednesday night. He will pitch against Boston’s Rick Porcelo (11-9, 5.49).

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There are way bigger things to worry about with Phillies than Rhys Hoskins

There are way bigger things to worry about with Phillies than Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins is in a slump. An ill-timed slump, given the time of year and the Phillies’ position in a crowded but still somehow winnable wild-card race. 

Hoskins made four more outs Sunday. He’s 1 for his last 24. He’s hit .148 over his last 30 games. 

This rut from Hoskins has affected the Phillies’ record, but it’s nothing more than a slump and shouldn’t be viewed as such just because it is happening right now. It is not a sign that the organization needs to go out this offseason and find a better first baseman. It is not some definitive piece of evidence that Hoskins needs to move to the bottom of the order. 

We always overvalue what we’ve just seen. Hoskins hasn’t hit for a month, so his hot streaks become harder to recall and feel less long and less productive than they are. 

But consider this: Hoskins’ on-base percentage dipped below .380 Sunday for the first time since opening day. It took a stretch this cold for his on-base and power numbers to decrease to their current levels, which are still impressive. 

Hoskins’ OBP is 40 points higher than the league average for first basemen. His slugging percentage is 13 points higher than his first base peers and 40 points better than the league overall. He has made an out nearly 75 percent of the time he’s stepped to the plate over the last month, yet is still having an offensive season better than at least half of the league’s first basemen. 

Hoskins’ numbers likely won’t end up where they are now. We’ve seen too much evidence that he is a better hitter than this. A multi-year track record matters more than four weeks. It is a simple concept that always sounds logical until a player is in the midst of a run as poor as Hoskins’. 

Will Hoskins finish the year hitting .237? Will his slump last much longer? If you’re looking for a couple positive signs, take his 400-foot flyout to straightaway center that was a foot shy of tying Sunday’s game in the eighth inning. Hoskins had better swings and tracked pitches better in that game than he has for much of the past month.

He was confident and didn’t seem defeated after the game Sunday. 

“Look, I feel great,” he said after the Padres took two of three. “Obviously, it sucks to not contribute and not produce, but swing-wise, I feel great. I feel like for the most part I’m seeing pitches. I’m seeing the ball fine. Just for whatever reason things are a little off and the last couple weeks when I do click something, it’s right at somebody. 

“That’s baseball. Unfortunately, I know that’s really cliché. I wish I had a different answer. I’ve sat for hours and hours and looked at film trying to find something that I can go in the cage and take a thousand swings to fix, but at some point you just have to keep going up there and stuff will turn. Water will find its level.”

“I'm feeling pretty protective of him right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said, “because I know how hard he's working and I know how much effort and time he's putting in. The at-bat quality remains strong even though at the end, the results aren't there. 

“I know how disappointed he is in it and I'm disappointed for him because I know this is going to turn around for him. I know these at-bats are going to end in doubles and homers.” 

Still realistic for Hoskins to finish with an OPS around .900 with 30-plus homers and 90-plus RBI. That would be a very good season. Maybe not a “great” season, but remember again that this is a third-year player making less than $600,000. Should a very good player be blamed for not being a great player?

There are just far more important things to worry about with this team in 2019 and beyond than Rhys Hoskins. 

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Reds' electric rookie Aristides Aquino beats one Phillies record, narrowly misses another

Reds' electric rookie Aristides Aquino beats one Phillies record, narrowly misses another

Mike Schmidt's record is safe. 

Reds outfielder Aristides Aquino, one of only two major-leaguers with more home runs in August than Bryce Harper, hit his 11th on Saturday night. It came in his 58th plate appearance.

Aquino's season began less than three weeks ago. He is the second-fastest player ever to 11 home runs in a season, needing 58 plate appearances to reach that mark. The major-league record belongs to Schmidt, who in 1976 needed just 56 plate appearances to reach 11 home runs. Mixed in there was Schmidt's 4-homer, 8-RBI game in an 18-16 Phillies win over the Cubs.

Aquino, did, however, beat Rhys Hoskins' record. Hoskins in 2017 became the quickest player ever to 11 home runs, reaching the mark in 18 games. No player had ever before gotten to 11 home runs in fewer than 22 games to start a career. Aquino reached 11 dingers in 17 games, one fewer than Hoskins.

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