Rhys Hoskins touched home plate Friday night, slapped Freddy Galvis’ hand, and then punctuated yet another home run by shrugging his arms in the air. Hoskins — just like everyone else in Citizens Bank Park — appeared stunned by his incredible power surge.
Yes, there were high hopes for Hoskins when the Phillies promoted him earlier this month from triple A. But no one, not even Hoskins, expected this. His two-run homer in the first inning of a 7-1 win over the Cubs was his ninth in 54 at-bats. Hoskins is the fastest player in MLB history to hit nine homers, and he has homered on six-straight game days. It has been quite the arrival.
“You get into the zones, you know? You can’t really explain it,” Hoskins said. “There’s a lot of just bliss I guess, no thinking involved. It’s just one of those things. I’m not missing. The game is a lot tougher when you miss pitches. And you do, it’s the nature of the game. But I’m not missing for the most part.”
Hoskins may not be able to explain this surge, but he is not shocked.
“I’m confident in the ability that I have. I don’t know what word to put on it. Shocked is definitely not it,” Hoskins said. “I’m trying to just lose myself in the routine and the preparation, and let the ability shine through when it’s game time.”
Hoskins’ blast was the start of six runs the Phillies would score over the first two innings, providing a generous cushion for Jerad Eickhoff. Cesar Hernandez hit a three-run triple in the second, and Freddy Galvis singled home Hernandez. Maikel Franco homered in the eighth. Eickhoff’s lone run in five innings came off a first-inning homer by Kyle Schwarber. The righthander struck out eight and walked three but struggled with velocity.
Eickhoff’s fastball sat at an average speed of just 89.3 mph, the third-straight start it was slower than 90 mph. But he made do, relying on his curveball for seven of his strikeouts, six of which were whiffs.
“We just kind of look at each other with blank stares when he does something like he’s doing,” Eickhoff said of Hoskins. “It’s really cool to see and he’s a great person. We’re happy to see it and are really fortunate to have him on our team.”
He walked Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in succession to load the bases with two outs in the fifth. Eickhoff looked to be in trouble. He failed to break. The pitcher fooled Ian Happ with a curveball, escaping the threat and ending his night against the World Champions with a strikeout. It was a gritty performance by Eickhoff on a night when he didn’t have his best stuff.
“Velocity can be important but so is movement on your pitches and location and deception,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He threw a ton of curveballs today and look at Rich Hill. He throws a ton of curveballs and that might be what he has to do the rest of his career. I’d like to see him add one more pitch to his repertoire but he was very effective and kept them off balanced.”
Hoby Milner and Adam Morgan continued their emergence as reliable lefthanded relief options. The two seemed to find their footing together over the last few weeks. Milner, a rookie, pitched a scoreless sixth for his 12th-straight scoreless appearance, a stretch that covers 10 innings. Morgan did not allow a run in the seventh or eighth and now has allowed just one earned run in his last 12 1/3 innings.
Hoskins had another chance to drive in a run in the fourth when Freddy Galvis reached third on a throwing error with two outs. Hoskins worked a 3-1 count, and then Galvis inexplicably broke for home. Cubs pitcher Jose Quintana threw home, which was record as ball four, and Galvis was caught in a run down. Mackanin said Galvis thought he could time the pitcher’s delivery and steal home.
“He got carried away,” Mackanin said. “I told him he had the hottest hitter in baseball with a 3 and 1 count. Pick another time.”
It was a lost chance for Hoskins, but it was another example of his intense plate discipline as he made Quintana throw pitches. Hoskins is averaging 4.67 pitches per plate appearances through his first 68 plate appearances. The sample size is too small to qualify on baseball’s leader boards, but the mark is higher than any other player in baseball. Hoskins had great discipline all through the minor leagues, but that would surely regress in the majors. It hasn’t yet.
“Very impressive. He just gives you quality at-bats. That’s what we’re looking for,” Mackanin said. “We talked over the winter about getting professional hitters. He looks like a professional hitter.”
The Phillies have used this trying season to determine the players who can claim a role on the next contending team. Manager Pete Mackanin has often referred to the season as a tryout for “25 good men.” The first five months yielded few answers. But the final five weeks may reveal that the Phillies have found the cornerstone of their future. Hoskins, in just three weeks, has been that impressive. Just don’t ask him to explain it.
“He’s awesome. He’s a good dude. He’s one of the guys you pull for,” Morgan said. “He’s doing everything the right way it looks like. We’re pulling for everybody out there, all those guys, but for him to do what he’s doing is pretty special.”