The streak was over, and Rhys Hoskins was happy.
No, he wasn’t happy that the streak was over, that he failed to hit a sixth home run in six games, which would have broken the franchise record. The streak, to his existence, was completely coincidental as the Phillies beat the Braves on Monday. As he laced up his edgy high tops and squeezed a trucker cap over his blond curls, his joy lay in a simpler achievement.
“You’re just trying to win a game to start a series,” said Hoskins, the most significant part of the team’s three wins in its last four games. “We had a little momentum from the Cubs series. And I know we’ve had some success against these guys. Trying to keep that going.”
Hoskins’ home run barrage didn’t keep going, but his contributions continued. In the sixth inning, he ripped a go-ahead double down the leftfield line and later scored after making a smart baserunning decision. He returned to play first base (he had converted to leftfield a few weeks ago) in place of Tommy Joseph, where he made a nifty backhanded play on a ground ball and made a lovely pick to finish Maikel Franco’s breathtaking, diving-stop-and-throw.
So, for now, Hoskins will share the Phillies record for homers in consecutive games with Mike Schmidt, Chase Utley, Dick Allen, and Bobby Abreu.
He felt no desire to break the record, he said. He felt no pressure, he said.
He felt only delighted, because the game ended with the Phillies scoring six runs, the Braves scoring one. Besides, he has other laurels to rest upon.
Hoskins, 24, reached 11 home runs in his first 18 major-league games, the fastest route to 11 in history. Hoskins’ 11 home runs in a single month broke Ryan Howard’s Phillies rookie record for homers in a month, and, since he didn’t debut until Aug. 10, Hoskins missed the first eight games of the month … and he has three more games before September arrives.
Joseph leads the team with 19 homers, but there is a chance that Hoskins passes him and everyone else by the end of the season. After all, in the past 17 months, he’s hit 76 home runs in 269 games among Double A, Triple A and the majors. That pace would give him nine more in the final 32 games, or an even 20 for the season.
And he’s not even trying. He never tries. In fact, he’s terrified of swinging for the fences, so it’s been years since he did it in a game.
“To be completely honest, I don’t know if could tell you,” he said. “It happens to me in BP: I try to hit home runs, and the swing goes awry.”
He’s hitting .284 since the beginning of 2015, so his swing is, for the most part, extremely un-awry. That’s because he doesn’t have to swing hard to make the ball go far.
He’s a Big Hoss who generates natural power with a his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame. Proportionately built, he doesn’t look like a beast, but he can hold his own with the big boys. Consider: Mike Trout is 10 pounds heavier but two inches shorter and two years older; National League MVP Kris Bryant of the Cubs is 25, 6-5 and 230; Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, 27, is 6-5 and 220. Hoskins is considerably bigger than teammate Maikel Franco, who is 25, 6-1, 215.
That doesn’t mean Hoskins never swings hard.
“You do get away from it, from time to time,” he acknowledged. “You’re not necessarily trying to hit a home run, but you try to do too much with a pitch, and you end up swinging and missing or popping a ball up.”
It also doesn’t mean that Hoskins never looks bad, at least for an at-bat or two, as he did against Braves starter Lucas Sims early in the game Monday. However, he’s a fast learner, and he’d seen Sims before.
Sims started for the Triple A Gwinnett (Ga.) Braves on July 17 when Hoskins and Lehigh Valley visited. Hoskins went 0 for 3 with a strikeout. Then, on Monday, he flied out in his first two at-bats against Sims. Finally, in the sixth, Hoskins turned on a first-pitch fastball that turned the game around.
“Sims, he’s got a little funk to him,” Hoskins said. “It was just a matter of me figuring out the delivery.”
This was not braggadocio. This was analysis. Hoskins is as sober as a banker and twice as reliable; at least, he is for the Phillies these days.
“In that situation, runner in scoring position, game tied, we’re getting into the second half of the game, it doesn’t need to be a home run. It doesn’t even need to be a double,” he said. “As long as that guy gets driven in, I feel like I’ve done my job.”
The ultimate job, of course, is to win. The Phillies remain the worst team in baseball, but they have won six of their last 10 … which coincides with Hoskins’ 10-game hitting streak. He has improved his average from .200 to .309.
Hits matter. Home runs are a bonus.
“Everyone wants to win, right? Everything’s better when you win,” Hoskins said. “I think we’re trying to build a little something going into the offseason here. Just trying to finish strong.”
Published at Wed, 30 Aug 2017 03:14:57 +0000