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The Phillies are a team that play true to the trends. A night after losing for the 10th time in 10 opportunities to reach seven games over .500 dating back to June 19, the Phillies improved to 10-0 in games at Citizens Bank Park started by a pitcher entering with an ERA of 5.50 or higher.
The latest victim was highly-touted Pirates pitching prospect Mitch Keller, who was coming off an excellent six-inning effort against the Reds in which he allowed only one earned run while striking out six batters. However, the results were much different tonight as he was touched up for eight earned runs on 11 hits in four-plus innings of work.
Make of this what you will, but the Phillies have now scored 87 runs over 14 games, an average of 6.21 runs per game since Manuel was named the team’s hitting coach.
A small sample size? Sure. But if this offense can come anywhere close to replicating that type of production over their final 30 games, we may be on wild card watch late into September when the air gets crisp.
It was no doubt a refreshing change of pace for a Phillies team that did something that it had previously failed to do on numerous occasions in recent weeks by taking care of an inferior opponent in relatively stress-free fashion.
In the process, they ended a streak of failed opportunities to capitalize against some of baseball’s have-nots.
Suck on that one, 56-77 Pirates.
The charge was led by Rhys Hoskins, who wasn’t benched or demoted to Triple-A as some fans would have had it.
A night after Hoskins inexplicably mishandled a routine throw that would’ve completed an inning-ending double-play in the ninth that instead cost the Phillies a winnable game, the slumping first baseman atoned for his sins.
Back in the cleanup spot for the first time since Aug. 4, Hoskins went 2 for 4 with a triple, double and a walk, matching the two combined extra-base hits he had over his previous six games. In fact, it was Hoskins’ first multi-hit effort since July 24, a span of 28 games.
After the game, Gabe Kapler credited Hoskins’ ability to stay relaxed after what was perhaps his toughest night as a pro:
I thought he made good decisions, and it seemed like he was on the fastball the whole night. The other thing I noticed was how relaxed his body language was and his facial expression were when he was up at the plate, particularly when he got to two strikes. I think we talked a little bit earlier in the day about sprinters, but if you ever watch a sprinter in slow motion, you can see their face looks kind of like jelly because they’re so relaxed, and it really looked like Rhys had a lot of weight lifted off his shoulders today.
After Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell brought the Pirates to within a run – a homer that temporarily gave the game that familiar oh shit feeling – Corey Dickerson sparked a five-run fifth-inning outburst with a 376-foot opposite-field homer:
Dickerson with a homer and the Phillies extend their lead to 4-2! pic.twitter.com/Gk92ql15UB
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 28, 2019
Look at him go up and get a 97 mph fastball at the top of the zone.
The man is raking right now. Since a seven-game stretch from Aug. 11-20 that saw him hit .120 with a .315 OPS, Dickerson has been swinging his DI – ahem, check that – he’s been swinging a pretty hot bat.
We’re growing up here at Crossing Broad.
Kapler gave some pretty good insight into Dickerson’s evolution as a hitter:
I think the most interesting thing about Dickerson is he’s closed holes in his swing. We paid a lot of attention, and I went back and looked at a lot of swings from his time in Tampa and his at-bats. He still hit homers and drove the ball, but I think he’s more dangerous because he can cover so much of the zone. And he spreads out and gets into a little two-strike rhythm, and he becomes a really tough out. And what you’re seeing now is he’s hitting fastballs up, and they’re still attacking him up in the zone. But he’s catching up to high velocity at the top of the zone and doing damage with that pitch, something he wasn’t able to do consistently with Tampa and part of the reason he was DFA’d. So it’s interesting to see a guy make that kind of adjustment and cut his strikeout rate like he has. He’s a much better hitter than he used to be and the other one was a really good one as well.
Anyway, over his last seven games, he’s hitting 11 for 32 (.344) with a 1.082 OPS.
Speaking of swinging a hot bat, J.T. Realmuto, who now has 34 extra-base hits at home this season, continued his torrid August with a triple and his 20th homer:
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 29, 2019
I didn’t think much of a Phillies first baseman and catcher producing a pair of triples in the same game, but apparently it’s been awhile:
Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto are the first #Phillies first basemen and catcher combination each with a triple in the same game since John Kruk and Darren Daulton on April 17, 1992.
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) August 28, 2019
The opponent in that game was the Pirates, too, of course. Who could ever forget the night that Terry Mulholland and Barry Jones combined to blow a three-run seventh-inning lead to the Pirates on the way to a 7-4 loss?
Remember it like was yesterday.
Harper Stays Hot
Bryce Harper was 2 for 4 tonight with a pair of singles, an RBI, and a walk. He’s having himself a nice little August. First-born child, 10 homers, 22 RBIs and a .998 OPS.
Velasquez Bounces Back
It was a relatively low stress start for Vince Velasquez tonight. After a nightmare third inning against Miami on Friday night that saw him unfathomably cough up a 7-0 lead, he bounced back by allowing only two earned runs over five innings.
That seems to be an important mile marker for the Phillies. They are now 61-40 when their starting pitcher goes at least five innings and only 8-23 when they don’t.
Velasquez struck out five and walked none in a 75-pitch effort. Velasquez finishes the month of August with a 6.20 ERA in five starts, but that Marlins one was a killer. In his other four starts, he pitched to a respectable 4.03 ERA. He’s still not getting deep into games – he’s only completed six innings twice in 18 starts – but he’s giving the team a chance most nights he takes the ball, so you’ve gotta at least give him that much.
Sean Rodriguez came to the plate for the first time with the Phillies holding an eight-run lead in the eighth inning. The fans booed the shit out of him and he then proceeded to strike out. Fans cheered for a few seconds before switching back to boos.
Honestly, I do not think that Rodriguez knew what was he getting into when he climbed atop his high horse after his walk-off homer on Monday night.
The good news for him? The Phillies only have 12 home dates remaining.