Rookie Hoskins sets homer record in Phillies’ win
PHILADELPHIA — Rhys Hoskins says he’s just in a zone.
“You can’t really explain it,” the Philadelphia Phillies rookie 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 way Hoskins is swinging the bat, the team with the worst record in baseball has a swinging chance, even against the defending World Series champions.
Hoskins homered again as the Phillies (47-80) jumped on the Chicago Cubs (68-59) early and cruised to a 7-1 win at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.
Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff (4-7) picked up the win. He went five innings while allowing one run and five hits. Eickhoff struck out eight and walked three.
Cubs starter Jose Quintana (4-3) didn’t have his best day. The left-hander surrendered six runs and nine hits in five innings. He walked four and struck out seven.
Given a 1-0 lead on a first-inning homer by Kyle Schwarber, Quintana left a fastball over the heart of the plate to Hoskins in the bottom of the inning and paid for it. The two-run blast gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead they’d never relinquish.
The home run was Hoskins’ ninth and made him the fastest player in modern era history to reach nine home runs in terms of at-bats (54). Hoskins, 24, also became the first player in history with nine homers in his first 16 games. He is on pace to belt 28 home runs in 51 games.
“I’m confident in my ability,” Hoskins said. “I don’t know what word to put on it, but shocked isn’t it. I don’t know if it’s hit me yet, but it’s pretty cool to be mentioned in a sentence as ‘first ever.’”
“We talked over the winter about getting professional hitters,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He looks like a professional hitter.”
The Phillies broke the game open in the second inning. They loaded the bases when Eickhoff flared a single to right that fell in front of a diving Jason Heyward. The next batter, Cesar Hernandez, belted a ball to the gap in left center that cleared the bases with a triple for a 5-1 lead. Hernandez had three hits on the night.
Freddy Galvis knocked the next pitch to left for an RBI single to make it 6-1.
“Apparently the location wasn’t as good as you’d like to make it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Their kid Hoskins did it. He put them up quickly. That took the wind out of our sails quickly after the Schwarber homer. And then obviously the bases-clearing ball in the gap is pretty large.
“After that, (Quintana) kind of pitched better. I think he started mixing up his pitches, a couple more curves, couple more changeups. I think in the beginning we just got a little bit fastball heavy and they got us.”
That lead was more than enough for Eickhoff. The right-hander had his signature curveball working. Six of his eight strikeouts came on the pitch, none bigger than when he got Ian Happ to swing and miss at a curve with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth.
“Just trying to make him miss hit something, force some contact,” Eickhoff said. “That was the biggest thing. Got him out front. I knew he struggles with breaking balls. I was able to do that and execute where I wanted to.”
“He was able to throw his curveball for a strike when he wanted to,” Maddon said of Eickhoff. “He was really good at that. That was my concern before the game. I talked about that. He was able to dump it for a strike early.”
The Cubs struck out 14 times.
Philadelphia’s bullpen pitched four shutout innings, two by lefty Adam Morgan, who struck out five Cubs.
Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco hit a solo shot in the eighth off Felix Pena to push the lead to 7-1.
NOTES: T Phillies activated OF Daniel Nava (lower back strain) from the disabled list. They sent RHP Jake Thompson back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday night. ... Friday was “Players Weekend” around Major League Baseball, a player-focused event that included players wearing colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth league uniforms. ... The Cubs send RHP Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.52 ERA) to the mound Saturday in the second game of the three-game series to face RHP Ben Lively (1-4, 3.70).