PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies fans filled Citizens Bank Park for Friday night's matchup with the Nationals in part because of the postgame fireworks display. And for a while, it seemed like the only one providing a show was an explosive Nats offense that homered four times in the first four innings.That
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies fans filled Citizens Bank Park for Friday night's matchup with the Nationals in part because of the postgame fireworks display. And for a while, it seemed like the only one providing a show was an explosive Nats offense that homered four times in the first four innings.
That was until Rhys Hoskins worked a marathon of a 14-pitch at-bat in the fifth inning that ended with his third home run in as many games. The two-run blast cut the Phillies deficit to seven runs, in what ended as a 17-7 Nats win, in which the two teams totaled 10 home runs.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said it was one of the better at-bats he's ever seen.
"Very good hitters feel sharper and sharper as the at-bat goes," Kapler said. "You start to see every pitch that pitcher has in his repertoire. Your timing starts to get better and better."
Hoskins watched Nats starter Erick Fedde's first four pitches go by to find himself in a 2-2 count. Hoskins fouled off a splitter. He took a third ball. Then he fouled off seven pitches before turning on an 86-mph splitter.
"Survive," Hoskins said of the mindset needed to last 14 pitches. "If the pitch is in the strike zone or close, you gotta have a go at it."
By the time Hoskins' ball landed in the left-center-field seats, the home crowd erupted. When he returned to the dugout, Hoskins said, he commented on how mentally draining seeing that many pitches is. But he had fun.
"I love it," he said. "... The longer the at-bat goes, the more chances that I have to see a mistake."
The at-bat was the longest of both Hoskins' career and the Phillies' season. It tied Andres Blanco's home run last August as the longest Phillies at-bat to produce such a result since 1999. And it was the first of three Phillies home runs Friday night, along with a solo from Scott Kingery three batters later and a 422-foot moonshot from Carlos Santana in the seventh.
Since breaking his jaw with a foul tip on May 28, Hoskins has hit .333 with six doubles, eight home runs and 10 walks in 87 plate appearances. That includes a pinch-hit double on May 29 after Dodgers doctors initially cleared him safe to play before a DL stint. His jaw still isn't completely healed, but with his double-flapped helmet providing protection, Hoskins has found success at the plate that evaded him during the month of May, in which he hit .151 before the injury.
Breaking a bone bone in your face isn't exactly a traditional way to break out of a dry spell. But crushing a baseball 407 feet on the 14th pitch of an at-bat isn't common either. Hoskins and the Phillies will take that.
"It's funny, right?" Hoskins said. "Maybe you're a little tired. You're trying to do less and you hit the ball harder."
Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.