As Aaron Nola got his pitching arm treated and grabbed a plate of food in the Phillies’ clubhouse Monday night, Rhys Hoskins came to the plate with the winning run on second base and two out in the ninth inning.
“When Rhys came up, anything can happen, you know?” Nola said later. “I’ve seen it time and time again.”
Oh, but nobody had seen what was about to happen. Because although Hoskins is among 32 major league players to drive in at least 300 runs since 2018, he hadn’t had a walk-off hit. At least not until he drilled a slider from Miami Marlins reliever Anthony Bass into the gap in left-center and scored Matt Vierling from second base to cap a 3-2 victory in the opener of a three-game series.
See, there’s a first time for everything.
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Hoskins followed through on his swing, raised his arms, and didn’t put them down until he was more than halfway to second base and being chased by his victorious teammates. The Phillies won for the 10th time in 11 games, nine of 10 since Rob Thomson took over for deposed manager Joe Girardi.
“Best kind of shower,” said Hoskins, still wet from the mixture of Gatorade and water that got dumped over his head during an on-field television interview. “It’s great. It’s the best. The best.”
Hoskins surely could get used to this. In the midst of his delirium on the bases, he appeared to look back and shout in the direction of the dugout.
“Bryce [Harper] and I had a conversation about a big moment coming up,” Hoskins said. “I was trying to get his attention. Like, ‘Let’s go. This is the moment we were talking about.’”
It was difficult to pinpoint the biggest moment of the game. There was Hoskins’ game-winner, officially scored a double. He fouled off a sinker, then laid off two more, and waited for an elevated slider that he could drive.
But there was also Vierling’s stolen base three pitches before that to get into scoring position. The Phillies gave Vierling the green light to go on an 0-1 pitch to Hoskins. He never thought twice. Not after recognizing that Bass was slow to home plate.
“I had a feeling that I could go get it,” Vierling said. “We saw how he was working, and the opportunity kind of presented itself. It was huge. I think it put us in a good spot to win that game. Ended up working out.”
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And then there was Hoskins’ eighth-inning plate appearance. With the Phillies trailing 2-1, Hoskins worked a seven-pitch leadoff walk against Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara. Harper walked, too, before Alcantara got J.T. Realmuto to ground into a double play.
But the long at-bats, particularly Hoskins’, drove Alcantara’s pitch count to 113. Alcantara entered with a 0.56 ERA in his last six starts. But one out from escaping the eighth with a lead, the Marlins turned to the bullpen, and Didi Gregorius stroked a game-tying single against lefty Scott Okert to drive in Hoskins.
“It was grindy, right?” Hoskins said. “You’ve got to try different ways [to get on base]. Sandy’s obviously doing what he’s doing and making it look easy. He had really, really good stuff again. We knew we were going to have to scratch across a couple runs. Wasn’t pretty, but it’s kind of what good teams do.”
They bounce back from tough losses, too. The Phillies had their nine-game winning streak snapped Sunday with a 13-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was important not to let it linger.
Good teams also win games within their division. In the Phillies’ usual advance scouting meeting before a new series, Thomson reminded them that the winning streak came against non-divisional opponents. With eight NL East games in a row slated for this week, it’s a good time to get on another roll.
“We need to start winning games in our division,” Thomson said. “It’s big. We’ve beat some teams that, [the Angels] were kind of scuffling at the time and we fed off of that. We beat a first-place team in Milwaukee. I said we’ve got to start winning some games within our division. That’s a good start.”
After Marlins manager Don Mattingly called on Okert, Thomson could’ve countered with righty-hitting Nick Castellanos or Alec Bohm, both of whom were on the bench.
But he stuck with Gregorius, even though he entered the game batting .235 against lefties, compared to .339 against righties.
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Gregorius slashed a game-tying single down the first-base line. Thomson called on Castellanos to hit for on-deck batter Odúbel Herrera, and Castellanos also notched a single.
“I liked his at-bats,” Thomson said of Gregorius. “I have a lot of confidence in him. I did like the Castellanos matchup against Okert. That’s why we went with Casty there for Odúbel.”
Neither Nola nor Alcantara figured in the decision. Both dazzled.
For a second start in a row, Nola had everything working. He got 16 swings-and-misses, at least one with five different pitches. He pounded the strike zone, as usual, and scattered six hits in seven walk-free innings, extending his streak to 114 consecutive batters without issuing a walk.
Nola didn’t allow a hit until Garrett Cooper’s 45-foot tapper with one out in the fourth inning. He gave up runs on RBI doubles by Miguel Rojas in the fifth and seventh inning.
But Alcantara wasn’t any less effective. He gave up a third-inning run on back-to-back-to-back hits, including Harper’s RBI double. But his biggest regret was a leadoff walk in the eighth inning to Hoskins.
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The Phillies took a long look at the replay after Jon Berti stole second base in the seventh inning, but decided not to challenge even though it appeared he may have been out.
“It was close,” Thomson said. “In hindsight, probably should’ve challenged it because it was the seventh inning. But we didn’t think it was going to be overturned.”
Two pitches later, Rojas delivered a go-ahead double for the Marlins. Since 2019, Rojas is 62-for-160 (.388) with 14 doubles, two triples, three homers, and 22 RBIs in 26 games against the Phillies.