NEW YORK -- It was a swing, Gabe Kapler said afterward, Rhys Hoskins needed. It was a swing, Kapler said afterward, Aaron Nola needed. It was a swing, Kapler said afterward, that "was just what we all needed."
Hence the manager's delight in describing the solo homer from Hoskins that lifted the Phillies to a crucial 4-3 win over the Mets on Friday night at Citi Field, where the slugger sent a go-ahead, eighth-inning tater that reverberated through contexts both large and small.
For the Phillies, it marked a game-winner that helped them gain ground on the Braves in the National League East and put them in a position to possibly win their first series in more than a month. For Hoskins, it was a reprieve, breaking a homerless streak that stretched to 30 at-bats. And for Nola, it brought affirmation. Hoskins' blast off Tyler Bashlor awarded Nola his 16th win, tying the righty with fellow NL Cy Young Award candidate Max Scherzer for the league lead.
"Man, that was enormous," Kapler said. "It's huge for Rhys, huge for Nola and huge for all of us collectively."
In turning Bashlor's two-strike, 97-mph fastball around a projected 406 feet, per Statcast™, Hoskins delivered the type of big hit the Phillies have spent weeks seeking. For the better part of a month now, they've tread water, languishing behind an offense that's lagged through the late summer. Those struggles peaked this past week against the Marlins and Cubs -- aside from a 9-4 win on Tuesday in Miami, the Phillies scored a total of four runs in four losses.
But maybe it's no surprise that the team-wide malaise has run parallel with a career-worst slump for Hoskins, the lynchpin of the Phils' offense who entered play hitting .188 since Aug. 7.
"He is the guy we absolutely know is going to hit," Kapler said. "But it still injected a lot of confidence, life and enthusiasm into the dugout when he hit that home run."
The exact opposite vibe permeated the Phillies' dugout just minutes before, when Nola's grasp on win No. 16 came loose following a poorly placed fastball to Dominic Smith in the seventh. Smith's game-tying solo shot marked the fifth homer allowed by Nola -- Jay Bruce also went deep Friday -- over his past two starts; the righty had surrendered only that many over his previous 18.
"I see it more as random than as anything to point to about something being wrong," Kapler said.
In the end, the win will likely go further in buoying Nola's Cy Young Award case than the homers that checkered his line Friday. He did little to take his name out of the conversation alongside Jacob deGrom and Scherzer. The righty surrendered just one other hit -- a Jeff McNeil RBI double in the third -- and struck out eight against one walk across seven innings. He was backed by a Carlos Santana two-run homer and an RBI single by Asdrubal Cabrera, who played his first game in Queens since the Mets traded him to Philadelphia in July.
Seranthony Dominguez and Tommy Hunter secured the final six outs, handing Nola the precious statistical chip that is famously missing from deGrom's Cy Young case. It won't be easy, but should Nola sprint down the stretch and leapfrog Scherzer and deGrom in the Cy Young field, he'll certainly look at his work against New York as a bedrock of his resume. Nola has faced no team more in 2018, and he's now 4-0 with a 1.97 ERA in five starts against the Mets, striking out 37 and walking just nine across 32 innings.
The drama of the three-man race will ensue over the course of the next three days: Scherzer will start this weekend against the Cubs. deGrom faces the Phillies on Sunday.
"I block it out pretty well," Nola said. "You see it on TV every now and then, what they're doing, but my focus is on this team, trying to get wins. Those guys are kinda the last of my worries."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
One of the few Phillies who hasn't slumped recently, Santana stayed hot by hammering a two-run homer off Mets starter Steven Matz in the third. The blast capped a 10-pitch at-bat for Santana, who hit leadoff for the fourth time in six games. He is batting .333 with three home runs and eight RBIs during his current nine-game hitting streak.
"He's been impacting the baseball all year," Kapler said. "They haven't all fallen in, but he's driven the ball. We never lost faith that those balls would find holes, and now they have. The longer you play, the more your true colors come out. These are Carlos Santana's true colors."
Back in Flushing for the first time since being traded from the Mets in August, Cabrera was given a tribute on the Citi Field scoreboard prior to his at-bat in the second. Cabrera played 374 games for the Mets over parts of the last three seasons. Friday also marked Jose Bautista's first game back at Citi Field after he was sent to Philadelphia last month. Bautista, who went hitless in two at-bats Friday, played 83 games for the Mets this season.
FLASH THE LEATHER
Santana added some fancy glove work in the third, when he left his feet to rob Bruce of a hit with the go-ahead run in scoring position. Bruce tagged Nola's 0-2 pitch 95.8 mph, according to Statcast™, but Santana sprawled to glove it on one hop, spun and beat Bruce to the bag to end the inning.
Scott Kingery aided Nola's effort with a highlight-reel play in the sixth, leaping laterally to snag a line drive behind the second base bag. The diving play took what would've been a soft hit away from McNeil.
HE SAID IT
"That was the big talk today. We definitely wanted to help [deGrom] out. He's making history out there. When we face his competitors and guys he's competing with out there, we definitely want to put a dent or kind of hurt their chances. So we definitely talked about it all day, and that's what we wanted to do." -- Smith
Right-hander Zach Eflin (9-6, 4.05 ERA) beat the Mets not a month ago in the second game of a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park. He'll look to snap a three-start winless streak when he lines up -- on six days' rest -- against New York again Saturday opposite Noah Syndergaard (10-3, 3.33). First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET from Citi Field.