'I didn't miss it': Hoskins' HR sparks win

May 26th, 2021

Before offered a courtesy glance to the ball he crushed to left-center field for a two-run home run Tuesday in Miami, he turned to his teammates in the Phillies’ dugout.

“[Heck], yeah!” he shouted.

Hoskins spiked his bat.

“Let’s go!”

Then he ran.

The Phillies beat the Marlins, 2-0, a few hours after they placed Bryce Harper on the 10-day injured list with a bruised left wrist. Things have not been going well lately for the Phils, who had lost seven of their last nine games before Tuesday to fall into fourth place in the National League East. They will play without Harper until at least June 2, catcher J.T. Realmuto until at least Saturday and shortstop Didi Gregorius for who knows how long? Philadelphia has been struggling defensively and working through its share of pitching issues, too.

“We kind of needed a spark a little bit,” Hoskins said. “We played good baseball after that inning. We made a lot of good plays defensively. Obviously, the pitching was great. Whether or not it was sparked by that, who knows? But the energy in the dugout was a lot better after that.”

The Phillies need players like Hoskins to step up while Harper, Realmuto and Gregorius are down. They need to continue to pitch like he did on Tuesday. He tossed six scoreless innings. It is the first time he threw at least six scoreless since Aug. 3, 2018.

Velasquez has a 2.30 ERA in seven starts since he joined the rotation last month.

“It’s time for people to step up,” Hoskins said. “Vince stepped up for us huge.”

Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara had not allowed a home run against a right-handed hitter since Realmuto hit one on Sept. 10, 2020. Hoskins fell behind 0-2 with a runner on first and two outs in the fourth, then fouled off three of the next four pitches to get to 1-2. Alcantara threw a 99.8 mph fastball that Miami catcher Jorge Alfaro wanted on the outside corner. The ball drifted into the middle of the plate.

Hoskins crushed the pitch 107.7 mph, according to Statcast. It traveled a projected 410 feet.

“I just wanted to finish him with heat,” Alcantara said. “I think that's what I did a couple starts before when we faced the Phillies, but I think he made a great adjustment with my four-seamer.”

It tied the hardest pitch that Hoskins has hit for a homer in his career. He hit a 99.8 mph fastball from Miami’s Brian Ellington at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 12, 2017. Alcantara had never allowed a homer on a pitch that hard.

“It seems like every time we face Sandy it's A-plus stuff,” Hoskins said. “He’s kind of fallen into that category where it's kind of hard to give a strike or try to work counts just by taking pitches. If you get a good pitch to hit in the beginning of the at-bat, you've got to have a go at it. He made a couple good pitches early. I fouled off a couple tough pitches, then I finally got one in the middle of the plate. And again, you can't miss those in the middle of the plate, especially with a guy of Sandy's caliber. And I didn't miss it."

Good thing Hoskins connected. Alcantara retired the final 13 batters he faced. It was the first time the Phillies won a game in which they were two-hit since July 9, 2018.

Velasquez and the bullpen matched him.

Velasquez got scratched from his scheduled start Thursday because he experienced numbness in his right index finger. He felt fine Tuesday. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third, then settled. He retired eight of the final 10 batters he faced.

“He seemed to get a little better as the game went on,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.

A chatty Miami fan kept telling the Marlins that Velasquez was nothing more than a high-school pitcher. Velasquez shushed him as he walked off the field in the sixth. It was a fun moment. The Phillies haven’t had many of them lately.

“Alright, cool, yeah, I came out of high school, but what did you do?” Velasquez said, smiling. “But that’s not the point, man. … This was a big win for us. Rhys stepped up. He came up clutch.”

Velasquez started yelling as soon as he saw Hoskins’ homer. He said he lost it.

“That’s the momentum that we need in the dugout,” Velasquez said. “Something to get us going. It’s been kind of tough for us the last two weeks or whatever. It’s been tough. It’s not the best baseball. A lot of us are hurt. We’re fighters. Today was just having that mentality of doing my part.”