PHILADELPHIA – Rhys Hoskins rarely seems to hit those meaningless home runs that come in blowout victories or losses.
He hits homers that matter.
Hoskins hit another one in Friday night’s 4-2 victory over the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. Seranthony Domínguez had allowed a go-ahead homer in the top of the sixth inning to Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki, but the Phillies put runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the sixth after Jean Segura singled against right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, and left-hander Dan Jennings walked Bryce Harper. Hoskins crushed a 1-1 slider from Jennings into the left-field seats for a three-run home run to give the Phillies a two-run lead.
“The way this lineup is constructed, it becomes a pick your poison,” Hoskins said. “If I don’t get the job done there, well, we’ve got an All-Star hitter [J.T. Realmuto] right behind me. I just happened to be the poison they picked tonight.”
Hoskins entered the game batting .289/.404/.651 against right-handers compared to .240/.424/.440 against left-handers this season. For his career, he was hitting .269/.368/.575 against right-handers and .194/.376/.392 against lefties. The Nationals knew Hoskins’ reverse splits, and they particularly liked the matchup between him and Jennings.
Hoskins has struggled against sliders from left-handers. In fact, he was 0-for-17 with nine strikeouts in his career against them, including 0-for-4 this season.
“He had zero slug on left-handed sliders,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “And Jennings has got a really good slider. That’s the matchup. And Realmuto’s the same. We liked that matchup. But the walk to Harper was kind of unusual. That guy throws strikes, and he walked Harper. We thought, still, the matchup was good there.”
Jennings did not throw this 1-1 slider to Hoskins where he wanted it. He left it over the plate. Hoskins made him pay.
“I was just excited to finally do some damage against a lefty,” Hoskins said.
It was Hoskins’ 10th homer this season. No Phillies player had hit 10 homers through the team’s first 31 games since Chase Utley (30th game) and Raul Ibanez (31st game) in 2009. It was Hoskins’ 62nd homer since his big league debut on Aug. 10, 2017. Nobody has more in the National League. Only Oakland’s Khris Davis (70) and Boston’s J.D. Martinez (70) have hit more homers during that span overall.
Thirty-four of Hoskins’ 62 career homers (54.8 percent) have either tied the game or given the Phillies the lead.
Only Davis (36) has more since Hoskins' debut.
“It just happens to be that I get to be in those spots more often than some other guys,” Hoskins said. “My job is to drive in runs. I don’t think there’s a little extra focus. I’m trying to take every at-bat as the same. I think I just come up in those spots a little bit more.”
Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff allowed three hits, one run and three walks in five innings. He struck out seven. He did not have his best command, but he competed. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said he pulled Eickhoff after throwing only 87 pitches because it's important to monitor his workload following injuries the past couple seasons.
But Eickhoff has a 2.05 ERA since joining the Phillies this season. He looks at home in Philadelphia’s rotation.
Adam Morgan, Pat Neshek and Héctor Neris pitched three scoreless innings in relief. The only drama came in the ninth inning when home-plate umpire Bill Miller stopped the game after one pitch because he said Neris did not separate his hands before he came set. It caused a lot of confusion and a lot of conversations between Miller and Kapler, Miller and Neris, Miller and Neris’ teammates, and Miller and his crew.
The Phillies wanted to know why nobody else had called out Neris for this. They still do.
“This is the way I’ve pitched my whole career,” Neris said. “It surprised me.”
But the delay did not bother him.
“I have the ball,” Neris said. “I have control of the game.”