PHILADELPHIA -- Rhys Hoskins could not hide the frustration Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Hoskins stepped into the batter's box with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning during the 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays and had a chance not only to help the Phillies win the game, but move into first place in the National League East. But after Hoskins worked a 2-2 count, Blue Jays right-hander Dennis Tepera threw a fastball down and away. Hoskins took it. Home-plate umpire Joe West called it a strike.
Hoskins seethed about the pitch after the game, but not necessarily because he thought West missed the call.
"I thought it was a little off, but that doesn't really matter," Hoskins said. "It's too close to take in that situation."
Hoskins needed to swing.
"It's unacceptable," he said. "You've got to put the ball in play and give yourself a chance. That's really all it is."
Hoskins, who knocked in a run with a double in the eighth to cut Toronto's lead to 6-4, has been struggling for nearly a month, hitting .141 (12-for-85) with two home runs, nine RBIs and a .523 OPS since April 28. It would have been the perfect time for the first walk-off hit of Hoskins' big league career. It would have been a perfect way to say goodbye to a forgettable month.
"I leaned over to [bench coach Rob Thomson] at one point late and I said, 'If Rhys comes to the plate, we're going to win this game,'" Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "I really felt confident in that. He is just the guy that we want up in that situation going forward for so many reasons. We were in the spot that we wanted. It just didn't work out in our favor tonight."
It did not help that Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings. Eflin hit his first career homer in the third inning, but he pitched the Phillies into a 6-1 hole.
"The fastball command wasn't really there where I wanted it to be," Eflin said. "I thought I threw some pretty good secondary pitches. But at the end of the day, I kind of fell behind some hitters, and a bunch of stuff happened and I kind of got in trouble and lost rhythm a little bit."
But the Phillies chipped away. Carlos Santana crushed a two-run homer to right in the sixth to make it 6-3. Hoskins' double made it a one-run game. A wild pitch scored Jorge Alfaro in the ninth to make it 6-5.
Tepera walked Aaron Altherr and Cesar Hernandez to load the bases.
"I needed to make a pitch, something different," Tepera said about his at-bat with Hoskins. "I was trying to get the ground ball at first and see about getting an out at home or even a double play. It was something where we could surprise him there. Execute the pitch down and away, it was going to work, and it did."
If Hoskins or Odubel Herrera delivered one more big hit -- Herrera grounded out to end the game -- it would have been the latest the Phillies had occupied first place in a season since 2011.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Santana smashed the first pitch of his third at-bat off the right field scoreboard for a two-run home run.
After a rough first month, Santana noted that a long season meant he had time to turn things around. He has. Although it will take time to raise the .153 average he had through April, there are more telling signs of his more recent contributions. Santana is slashing .274/.376/.658 in May. He now has 13 extra-base hits and seven home runs this month. He has shown why the Phillies spent the money to bring him to Philadelphia.
"We're encouraged by the fact that now some of those balls are dropping on the outfield grass and getting through holes and going over the outfield fence," Kapler said, "but really, he has been performing all season long."
Alfaro threw out yet another would-be basestealer in the third inning when Teoscar Hernandez attempted to swipe second after Yangervis Solarte struck out. Alfaro's throw was clocked at 89.1 mph, according to Statcast™, which makes it the fourth-hardest caught-stealing throw of 2018. Alfaro also owns the hardest. And the second-hardest. And each of the top five, for that matter.
The rookie catcher has now thrown out 34.5 percent of attempted basestealers this season. He's gunned down eight of the last 11, and his 10 caught-stealings lead the Majors.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
After Blue Jays starting pitcher Sam Gaviglio doubled in the second, Curtis Granderson followed with a towering shot to left-center field. Herrera hovered toward the fence, leapt up and snagged the ball just before it went off the top of the wall. A hit there would have scored Gaviglio, who ended up stranded at the end of the frame.
These are plays the Phillies have come to expect, as Herrera has played a Gold Glove-caliber center field all season. He's tied for the most Outs Above Average with six. He has committed just one error this season.
HE SAID IT
"We didn't quit. We fought. We were in the game all the way up until the very last out. And we never felt for one second like we were out of the game." -- Kapler
Phillies ace Aaron Nola (6-2, 2.37 ERA) will be on the mound Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET at Citizens Bank Park after suffering his first loss in more than a month last week in St. Louis. Jaime Garcia (2-3, 6.28 ERA) will go for the Blue Jays after missing his last start with left shoulder inflammation.