Back when everything was going splendidly for Rhys Hoskins, you know, when he was hammering balls over the wall almost every night last August, he stood at his locker and answered all the questions. It was easy. After all, who doesn’t like talking about the good times?
Now, things have toughened up for Hoskins. But that hasn’t stopped him from answering all the questions. There’s no hiding in the trainer’s room for this guy. He might be hitting just .162 with a .577 OPS in 20 games this month. But he’s got some character.
The Phillies battled back from a five-run deficit, made it a one-run game and loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night. As the uprising was unfolding, manager Gabe Kapler turned to bench coach Rob Thomson and said, “If Rhys comes to the plate, we're going to win this game.”
Hoskins did come to the plate with a chance to tie or win the game for the Phillies. But the at-bat ended with him walking back to the dugout dejectedly after taking a close 2-2 fastball for a third strike. The next batter, Odubel Herrera, grounded out. Game over. Blue Jays 6, Phillies 5 (see first take). And up in Boston, the Braves lost to the Red Sox. The Phillies squandered a chance to take over first place in the NL East. They remain a half game back.
Replays of Ryan Tepera’s pitch on Hoskins showed it to be so close to the outside part of the plate that the call could have gone either way. Umpire Joe West rang up Hoskins. After the game, Hoskins resisted looking at the replay. He was not happy with himself.
“I thought it was a little off, but that doesn’t really matter,” he said. “It’s too close to take in that situation. It’s unacceptable. You’ve got to put the ball in play and give yourself a chance.
“I was just trying to simplify my approach as much as I can. When you have a pitcher on the ropes like that, I think that’s the best way to go about it and he made a good pitch. Like I said, unacceptable in that situation.”
Kapler had not looked at the replay of the pitch before meeting with reporters.
“I don’t know if that’s the best use of my time right now,” Kapler said. “I know it’s not going to make me feel good.
“I don’t think Rhys was particularly happy. I mean, look, it’s a very difficult moment to go through for a hitter — game on the line and a really close pitch. It’s just tough all the way around.”
Starter Zach Eflin allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings. The Phils chipped away, but the deficit proved too big. Hoskins helped the Phils get close with an RBI double in the eighth. He also had a walk. So, ironically, on a night when he failed in a big situation, he may have taken a step toward breaking out of his May slump.
“If you go back four or five games, Rhys has been swinging the bat pretty good,” Kapler said. “I’m not talking about lots of hits. I’m taking about swings with bat speed. I’m talking attacking the baseball. I’m talking about getting the ball in the air. There have been some good things happening for Rhys. He’s very close to taking off for us.”