Hoskins was dropped a few spots in the Phillies’ lineup this week because of his recent struggles. His bases-loaded, two-out double in the seventh cleared the bases to give the Phillies a three-run lead.
Back in March, Velasquez stood outside the visitors’ clubhouse in Dunedin, Fla., and spoke about time running out on his Phillies career. On Friday, he allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings, shutting down one of the best offenses in baseball.
Their mindsets? Keep it simple.
“Less is more,” Hoskins said. “Less is more.”
“I was so locked in today that I had my earrings in,” Velasquez said. “I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ That just shows that my mindset was just there to pitch. I was ready for this game. To start off this new series. To try to get our guys back in the zone and win another series. We’re right in this thing.”
Not too many people would have put Velasquez in this spot a few months ago. The Phillies signed free-agent starters Chase Anderson and Matt Moore in the offseason because they felt they could not rely on him anymore and that he had been too inconsistent the past several seasons. But after Moore got sidelined last month, Velasquez stepped in.
He allowed just three hits through 5 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays, who entered the night ranked second in baseball in home runs (51) and sixth in runs per game (4.92).
“I commanded my stuff very well,” Velasquez said. “I got the ball back, I was in rhythm, I was in sync. I had tempo. I was just going out there and throwing.”
Velasquez has a 2.84 ERA in his five starts. He is not going anywhere anytime soon.
“Vinny was great,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s as good as Vinny’s thrown the ball all year.”
Velasquez set up the Phillies’ run-filled seventh. Blue Jays right-hander Trent Thornton walked Andrew Knapp on five pitches to start the inning. He struck out Nick Maton on six pitches and Andrew McCutchen on five pitches for the first and second outs. He then walked Jean Segura on eight pitches to put runners on first and second.
Left-hander Tim Mayza entered the game to face Bryce Harper, who walked on five pitches to load the bases.
Girardi is not a fan of the three-batter-minimum rule for relief pitchers, but the Phillies used the rule to their advantage here. Mayza remained in the game to face J.T. Realmuto, who had grounded out with the bases loaded and two outs in the third. He also struck out swinging with runners on first and second and two outs in the fifth.
Realmuto fell behind Mayza 0-2. But he worked his way back, and a few pitches later, he checked his swing on a 3-2 slider in the dirt to score Knapp and tie the game, 1-1.
It was Hoskins’ turn. Girardi said something simple before he entered the on-deck circle.
“You don’t need to overswing here,” Girardi told Hoskins.
Hoskins took a nice swing at a 2-1 sinker from Mayza and lined it to left-center for a bases-clearing double. It was the 40th pitch of the inning, and the first ball put in play.
“I just kind of waited him out,” Hoskins said. “Obviously, I knew that he had to come to me with the bases loaded there in a pretty big situation. I just didn’t miss a pitch that was more on the plate than the other ones.”
The Phillies entered the game 20th in baseball with a .306 on-base percentage. They ranked third last season with a .342 mark. To be fair, offense is down throughout baseball this season. But the more runners on base, the more opportunities to score.
Hoskins and Alec Bohm, whose double off the right-field wall scored Hoskins later in that decisive seventh, proved that.
“These guys are good offensive players,” Girardi said. “We’ve dealt with a pandemic, and in baseball there seems to be a little bit of an epidemic with averages being down, right? These guys will make the adjustments. They’ll get going.”