SAN DIEGO — The Phillies assembled an outfield Tuesday night that was atypical. Rhys Hoskins, a first baseman until last week, started his fifth game in left field. Nick Williams, a corner outfielder, manned center for the first time in his big-league career. Hyun Soo Kim, a 29-year-old veteran of two innings in right field, started there.
It is difficult to reconcile this: More than a quarter of this Phillies season remains. They have to play the games. This 8-4 loss to the Padres served as a clinic on how not to play defense, and it began with a three-run first inning that should not have happened.
“We normally play better defense than that,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “It hurt us.”
Hoskins had looked acclimated in left before Tuesday night, when Yangervis Solarte rocketed a ball to the gap with two outs and a runner on first. It is impossible to expect excellence, or even averageness from Hoskins in left field. He took a poor route to the ball, which was catchable. It sailed over his outstretched glove for a run-scoring double.
“He looks sure-handed out there,” Mackanin said. “It’s just one of those tough plays that you have to be out there quite a while to know how to read it. It’s understandable.”
After a walk and another double, rookie righthander Mark Leiter Jr. had permitted three runs. He surrendered four more unearned runs in a haphazard fifth inning when Maikel Franco botched a routine grounder and Jorge Alfaro made an inaccurate throw to second on a stolen-base attempt.
The Phillies, matched against one of the National League’s worst teams, were sloppier than ever.
So it was another lost night, with two exceptions. Alfaro launched his first major-league homer and Hoskins clubbed his third in two nights.
Alfaro shot a hanging slider over the center-field wall at spacious Petco Park. It was hit hard. Real hard.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Alfaro said. “I don’t know, I felt like I was dreaming running the bases. I didn’t feel like that before. It feels like the hard work paid off, you know? I don’t know how to describe the feeling. It feels really nice, really good.”
Alfaro has six hits in 16 at-bats. It took 10 games in the majors for his first extra-base hit. The Phillies expect many more.
“That’s why we like him,” Mackanin said. “He has unbelievable power. If you watch him in batting practice, you see the power. The ball makes a real good sound off his bat when he hits it.”
Leiter did not pitch well. He threw 48 strikes and 44 balls. He had struck out 16 batters in his previous 9 1/3 innings of relief work. He fanned just one Padres hitter Tuesday in five innings.
But he was a victim of his defense’s blunders.
“You have to just keep going and try to make the next pitch to get the next guy,” Leiter said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the next guy. It cost us a couple of runs. I have to be better. I have to find a way to get that out.”
Leiter’s next turn is scheduled for Sunday in San Francisco. His ERA is 4.38. He has hopped between the bullpen and rotation; he did not throw a side session between his relief appearance last week in Colorado and his start Tuesday in San Diego. A regular routine could help.
The Phillies knew they would sacrifice some defense by plopping Hoskins in left field. It is a makeshift solution. For now, they want Tommy Joseph to remain in the lineup at first base. And the current outfield is depleted. The Phillies played Tuesday without the services of Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Daniel Nava.
Hoskins could return to first base in September, upon Altherr’s return. Until then, the chances are higher for defensive turbulence.