Rhys Hoskins’ grand slam powers Phillies to 4-2 victory, series win over Mariners

SEATTLE – Blame it on the rain? On the contrary.

If Rhys Hoskins is heating up – and his grand slam in the fourth inning of a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners here Wednesday is the latest evidence of that – then the Phillies will look back on the slugging first baseman’s two marathon sessions with hitting coach Kevin Long after back-to-back rainouts last week as the ignition switch.

“You’re always teetering on what’s too much,” Hoskins said. “But sometimes you just need to go hit and hit and hit and hit and hit until you can.”

When the 48-hour storm started last Friday, Hoskins’ season was all wet. Despite ranking in the 97th percentile of all hitters in average exit velocity (93.5 mph) and the 89th percentile in hard-hit rate (51.6%), he was batting .187 and slugging .341, 150th and 121st, respectively, among 173 hitters with 75 plate appearances.

Something did not add up, and it was enough to make a hitter go batty.

The Phillies postponed their game with the New York Mets early in the afternoon. But Hoskins went to Citizens Bank Park anyway, met up with Long in the batting cage, and hit a basket of balls for more than an hour.

“Close to 300 swings,” Long said.

After Saturday’s game got postponed, they did it all again. Long broke down Hoskins’ setup at the plate, eliminating his leg kick to get him to simplify his movements and improve his balance and timing.

The result: Hoskins went 1-for-4 with a double in the final of a doubleheader on Sunday, then tormented the Mariners for three days. He went 6-for-13, homered in each game, and finally got rewarded after all of those hard-hit balls that did not bear fruit.

“A lot of times, it’s just the grind factor,” Long said. “You say, ‘You know what? Maybe we need to do a little bit extra. Let’s have a couple of grind sessions. ‘ And they were grind sessions. ”

Said manager Joe Girardi: “Those are the things that aren’t always seen, how long they hit on those rainy days. Forever, right? He’s in a good spot. ”

Hoskins punctuated his big series by driving a 95 mph fastball from touted Mariners starter Logan Gilbert past the left-field foul pole to erase a 1-0 deficit. He stutter-stepped at home plate and gave Bryce Harper an elbow-rattling arm bash.

This was not merely Hoskins’ second career grand slam. It was catharsis.

It also was with a tailwind that the Phillies jetted off to Los Angeles for a four-game series against the mighty Dodgers. They only capped their second winning series since opening weekend behind quality work from spot-starting lefty Bailey Falter. Seranthony Domínguez, José Alvarado, Jeurys Familia, and closer Corey Knebel combined to face 18 batters and record 13 outs.

But the whole thing was powered by Hoskins, who, at his best, is able to carry the offense in a way that few sluggers can. With the Phillies scheduled to face Dodgers aces Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urías, they’ll need Hoskins to stay locked in.

“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s going to be fun. It’s a weekend series in LA What’s better than that? We’re going to come ready to play. We have to. ”

First, though, Hoskins needed to align the results with how well he was hitting the ball.

In the series opener Monday night, Hoskins stayed on a low-and-inside curveball and golfed it out to left field. He pulled a slider over the left-field fence in the seventh inning Tuesday night.

And then came the grand (slam) finale.

“You look up at the scoreboard and see yourself hitting a buck-something, and it’s discouraging,” Long said. “I thought he did a really good job of staying mentally strong throughout that. He just really trusted his process and what he was doing. To have a series like that, I know has to be a very satisfying feeling for him. ”

Making the second start of his major league career, Falter allowed five hits, struck out four batters, and did not issue a walk.

If only he could’ve gotten one more out.

Falter was lifted after allowing a two-out double to Adam Frazier in the fifth inning and therefore was ineligible to be credited with the victory. But he threw 65 pitches, his limit after throwing only 40 in his previous start in triple A.

“I was talking to myself on the mound because I knew [Frazier] was going to be my last batter, ”Falter said. “I figured that the pitch count was getting up there. I was like, ‘Let’s bear down; let’s go to work, ‘and he ended up ripping it in for a double. Can only do so much. I’m just happy I helped the team win. ”

The Mariners got little going against Falter, save for Frazier’s contested third-inning double – though the replay seemed to show he was out – and an RBI single by 21-year-old center fielder Julio Rodríguez, who demonstrated what all the fuss is about by going 5-for-12 in the series.

Playing in Seattle for the first time since the Mariners traded him after the 2018 season, Jean Segura was a thorn in his former team’s side throughout the series.

Segura homered twice, drove in four runs, reached in seven of 12 plate appearances (four hits, three walks), and ran the bases aggressively. Against Gilbert, he walked and stole a base in the second inning, then loaded the bases for Hoskins by working a six-pitch walk.

Over the past two weeks, Segura has heated up at the plate. He’s 13-for-30 (.433) with three homers, and five walks over his last nine games.

Rookie shortstop Bryson Stott continues to scuffle at the major league level. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and is 1-for-15 with seven strikeouts in four games since being recalled last weekend to replace injured Didi Gregorius (knee).

Overall, Stott is 5-for-45 with 17 strikeouts this season.

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