WASHINGTON -- Though he wouldn't be hoisting the T-Mobile Home Run Derby trophy at Nationals Park on Monday night, Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins nonetheless put up an impressive performance in his Derby debut and enjoyed the experience so much that he said he would do it again, if asked."One hundred
WASHINGTON -- Though he wouldn't be hoisting the T-Mobile Home Run Derby trophy at Nationals Park on Monday night, Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins nonetheless put up an impressive performance in his Derby debut and enjoyed the experience so much that he said he would do it again, if asked.
"One hundred percent," Hoskins said. "Too cool an opportunity to turn down if I was ever asked again."
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Hoskins was the first-round bracket buster in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby before coming out on the wrong side of a thrilling second-round showdown with Kyle Schwarber. The Cubs' slugger bested Hoskins' second-round total of 20 by launching a third-deck shot to the right-field seats as his regulation time expired in the round.
"Honestly I was just a fan at that point," Hoskins said. "After I went, I was trying to see Kyle hit as many as he could as far as he could. He didn't disappoint at all."
And so Hoskins was eliminated by the Cub. But no one could accuse Hoskins of looking nervous or out of his element on the dynamic and daunting stage that is this All-Star appetizer, which was won by Bryce Harper, who delivered in front of his hometown fans to take the Derby crown.
By virtue of his 2018 home run total paling in comparison to his Derby peers, Hoskins was the No. 8 seed. But the young man who lit up the baseball world with 18 homers in August and September of last year toppled the top-seeded Jesus Aguilar.
Hoskins, who opted to compete despite not being named to the National League All-Star roster, had joked before the Derby about Aguilar, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, being "big and scary." But Hoskins showed no fear.
He also made good use of the format, in which competitors have four minutes to hit. Hoskins used his lone timeout at the 2:05 mark, when he was sitting on just five homers. Then he found his groove after the breather and finished the first round with a flourish. His longest homer that round was measured by Statcast™ at 463 feet. His total of 17 equaled Gary Sanchez's total when he beat No. 1 seed Giancarlo Stanton last year.
"We're all new to it," Hoskins said. "Four minutes is a long time to hit. That's what [Aguilar] said. You don't know how you're going to respond. I kind of forgot to breathe. I had to remind myself to breathe."
Hoskins, the first Phillie to participate in the Derby since Ryan Howard in 2009, had a long breather before his next turn. And he looked refreshed and relaxed in Round 2, smoothly stroking long drive after long drive. He was at seven when he took his timeout at the 2:04 mark, then he stroked four quick homers in his first swings out of that break. He continued to bash baseballs as the clock ticked toward its conclusion, smacking No. 19 at the buzzer.
In Hoskins' allotted 30 seconds of bonus time (gained because he had hit at least two homers of 440 feet in the round), he finally looked gassed. But he was able to sneak in No. 20 at the buzzer to give Schwarber a high standard to chase.
Schwarber chased it with an entertaining display in which, late in the round, he began raising his arms and imploring the Nationals Park crowd to get behind him. As the noise rose, so did Schwarber's total, and if Hoskins had to get beat, well, an upper-deck poke at the buzzer was a pretty epic way to get beat.
"Everybody's standing, everybody was into every pitch," Hoskins said. "That's what I imagine playoff baseball is like."
So Bobby Abreu (2005, Comerica Park) and Howard (2006, PNC Park) remain the only Phillies players to win the Derby. But it sure seems there's a good chance Hoskins will take another swing at it down the road.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.