PHILADELPHIA -- Two innings into Saturday's 17-2 loss to the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park, Phillies rookie Rhys Hoskins popped up on the scoreboard for a "Get To Know Me" video segment. It was too late. Everyone already knows Hoskins.The inning before, Hoskins obliterated another homer, becoming the first Major Leaguer
PHILADELPHIA -- Two innings into Saturday's 17-2 loss to the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park, Phillies rookie Rhys Hoskins popped up on the scoreboard for a "Get To Know Me" video segment. It was too late. Everyone already knows Hoskins.
The inning before, Hoskins obliterated another homer, becoming the first Major Leaguer to hit 10 homers in his first 17 big league games, since at least 1913.
"I don't know if it has [hit me] yet," Hoskins said of his historic start. "Obviously to be mentioned in a sentence that has the words 'first ever in MLB history' is pretty special. It's definitely an honor, I'm just glad I was able to do it in a Phillies uniform."
His teammates' dugout reactions reveal that it hasn't hit them either.
"I don't really think anyone can really explain it, so it's kind of a lot of wide eyes," Hoskins said.
After his first-inning drive, Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp looked petrified, glancing around awestruck as if to confirm that what he saw had really happened. It did.
Hoskins mauled the second of two consecutive 1-2 changeups from Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks for his sixth homer with two strikes. Hoskins already ranks tied for second on the Phillies in two-strike dingers, behind only Aaron Altherr. Altherr has had 302 at-bats this season, Hoskins now just 60.
"It's very impressive," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I'd say the majority of hitters don't like to get to two strikes, they might be overly aggresive earlier so they don't get to two strikes. But he's not afraid to go to two strikes."
The offering from Hendricks was well-placed, a changeup just below the knees that would have hit his spot if it didn't run into Hoskins' lumber first. But Hoskins is an attentive hitter, and that was the third changeup he saw in the at-bat. He learned from each previous viewing. The changeup fell outside to run the count to 1-1.
"I got to see it early in the count, that's always nice," Hoskins said.
The pitch preceding the homer was another 1-2 changeup, this one inside, and Hoskins pulled it a mile foul.
"I saw that one pretty good, too," Hoskins said. The next pitch landed in the left-field seats.
"The homer I gave up really wasn't a bad pitch," Hendricks said. "He's hot and locked in right now. I was impressed by it. He hit two really good pitches for base hits today. What are you going to do?"
The second hit Kendricks mentioned, a hard liner to right in the seventh, also came with two strikes.
"He's special," Mackanin said. "He just gives you good at-bats, he got that base hit to right field his last time up. He takes what they give him, doesn't try to do too much. He's got a good idea."
Among those with at least 50 at-bats, Hoskins' two-strike OPS of 1.045 is far and away best in the Majors, a whole 137 points higher than the Reds' Zack Cozart's entering play Saturday and nearly double the two-strike league average. His .690 two-strike slugging percentage dwarfs even the league-average two-strike slugging percentage of .533.
If anything's been learned from Hoskins' historic start, it's that the 24-year-old has a cerebral approach at the plate. He grinds out at-bats, both mentally and physically. Knowing he's learned from every pitch in the at-bat, he's comfortable with two strikes instead of afraid, grateful his at-bat is still alive instead of dreading a potential walk back to the dugout.
"A lot of it is being comfortable with hitting with two strikes, being OK with being there and not letting yourself get out of whatever your approach is, or swing at pitches that are out of the zone," Hoskins said.
The routine has become a nightly occurrence for Hoskins, literally -- he's cranked a homer each of the last seven days. (He homered in one of the Phillies' two doubleheader games on Tuesday.)
"I'm going to start getting mad at him if he doesn't hit a home run every game he plays," Mackanin quipped.
Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia and covered the Phillies on Saturday.