PHILADELPHIA -- Kyle Schwarber became the Phillies’ favored leadoff hitter from the moment they signed him in March.
It was the best way to go.
Schwarber gets on base and he hits for power. But so does Rhys Hoskins, who hit second in Friday night’s 7-5 victory over the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park. Schwarber smashed a three-run home run in the second inning to give the Phillies a five-run lead. Hoskins hit a homer in the first to take a one-run lead, and a homer in the eighth to add an insurance run.
The recent resurgence of Schwarber and Hoskins in the top two spots has lined up almost perfectly with the Phillies’ eight-game winning streak, which moved them to .500 (29-29) for the first time since May 14.
“There’s a threat to leave the ballpark at any moment,” Hoskins said. “Especially in the leadoff spot. Starting the game, it’s not comfortable for the opposing pitcher. We’ve talked to these guys in here who are starters. It’s just an added element. Kind of what you’ve seen these past two games, but definitely in the streak, is that we’re going to put a good at-bat together. I think that just allows us to get into these bullpens a little earlier. I think that’s when you can score runs late, especially in the first game of a series.”
D-backs right-hander Zac Gallen threw 66 pitches in just 1 2/3 innings -- the shortest start of his career -- on Friday.
Schwarber and Hoskins saw 22 of those 66.
“They’re both hot and they’re both grinding out at-bats,” Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said.
Schwarber hit a leadoff homer on Opening Day to get everybody excited, but he struggled and fell in and out of the leadoff spot for weeks afterward. The Phillies tried five other hitters there as they searched for consistency.
Philadelphia's leadoff hitters ranked last in baseball with a .237 on-base percentage and a .502 OPS through May 29. But Schwarber is batting .333 (13-for-39) with three doubles, six home runs, 12 RBIs and a 1.319 OPS in his last 10 games, making him one of the hottest hitters in baseball. From May 30 through Thursday, Phillies leadoff hitters ranked first in baseball with a .455 on-base percentage and a 1.288 OPS.
“If I just stay in the zone and don’t go outside it, I’ll take my chances,” Schwarber said.
Meanwhile, Hoskins is batting .300 (12-for-40) with one double, four homers, six RBIs and a 1.016 OPS in his last 10 games.
The top two hitters in the Phillies’ lineup through May 29 ranked 28th with a .279 on-base percentage and 25th with a .625 OPS. From May 30 through Thursday, they ranked fifth with a .384 on-base percentage and third with a .973 OPS.
“Rhys has been a really good hitter for how long now?” Schwarber said. “Being able to play against him and see the guy get some really big hits, big home runs and having quality at-bats all the time, he’s doing a phenomenal job right now. His work … I wish you could see the way he goes about his work. It’s really A+. To see that pay off tonight, it was great.”
Production like that makes Thomson’s job easier.
It also makes him a winner. Thomson is the first Phillies manager to win his first seven games since Pat Moran won his first eight in 1915, when they won the first NL pennant in franchise history. Thomson is also the first manager to win his first seven games with a team since Felipe Alou won his first seven with the Giants in 2003, and he is the first manager to win the first seven games of his career since Joe Morgan won his first 12 with the Red Sox in 1988.
The 2003 Giants won 100 games and the NL West. The 1988 Red Sox won 89 and the AL East.
“I don’t know all of them, but when you’re joining company like that, it’s pretty cool,” said Kyle Gibson, who struck out four in a quality start for the win. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking to you guys about how things were going wrong for us, so it’s good to have it going right.”
“1915,” Hoskins said. “I think that’s all you really need to say.”