Only seven of a potential 29 opponents have witnessed the most powerful start in the history of Major League Baseball, but nobody has seen Phillies phenom Rhys Hoskins more than the Miami Marlins. It is safe to say they have seen enough to know they do not want to see any more.
Hoskins’ two-run home run in the fifth inning Wednesday night gave him seven homers in nine games against the Marlins. He has 10 against the other six teams he has faced for a stunning total of 17 in 33 games. In those games, he has outslugged baseball’s premier slugger, Giancarlo Stanton, whose 54 home runs this season lead all of baseball and are the most by any player since Ryan Howard hit 58 for the Phillies in 2006.
After Stanton singled Tuesday night, the two sluggers had a brief conversation at first base. Hoskins said Stanton told him to “just kind of keep going” and that “obviously the work is going to need to be there for your whole career.”
You could see during the conversation that Hoskins was a little starstruck.
“That guy is obviously a star in this game, especially with the year he is having, so to be able to share that with him was pretty cool,” Hoskins said after he helped carry the Phillies to an 8-1 win Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Hoskins’ combined 46 home runs between triple A and the big leagues are the second most in professional baseball, but he concedes that the title of modern-day home-run king still belongs to Stanton.
“He has all the thunder in baseball right now,” Hoskins said. “He’s chasing history.”
Perhaps, but three weeks ago, Dan Straily had never heard of Hoskins. Now, the Marlins pitcher is endlessly frustrated by him. Straily has faced Hoskins nine times and surrendered three home runs in the last three weeks.
“That guy is racing to the bat rack,” Straily said. “He just is. That was his third home run off me, and I want to say I got him out one time.”
Straily has actually retired Hoskins twice, but not since the first game he faced him. The Marlins pitcher was visibly disturbed inside the visiting clubhouse because he thought he had a good plan and even executed it well Wednesday night.
“Hoskins’ home run, it was in off the plate and he still hit a home run,” Straily said. “I’ve tried everything, and it’s not working. I will continue to search for a way to get him out. We’re going to be facing each other for a while, and I’m going to have to do a little more homework on him, for sure. He’s swinging the bat real well, and there are not a whole lot of holes. Even the one we thought we found, we executed some pitches, and he still found a way to get some hits.”
Like Hoskins, Don Mattingly knows what it is like to have early success. The Marlins manager won a batting title by hitting .343 at age 23 in his first full season with the New York Yankees. Mattingly was a .307 career hitter with a .358 on-base percentage, so he also knows a good hitter when he sees one. Mattingly is sold on Hoskins because of the rookie’s approach.
“He looks good,” Mattingly said. “He has a good feel for the strike zone. A lot of times, when a young guy comes up, they don’t stay in the strike zone. They chase. He seems like a guy that he knows what he wants to do up there as far as sitting on pitches and looking at different areas of the plate.”
Wednesday night was a perfect example.
Perhaps even more impressive than Hoskins’ latest launch into the left-field seats were his three other at-bats. He lofted a sacrifice fly to account for the Phillies’ first run in the first inning and drew a one-out walk before scoring on an Aaron Altherr double in the third. He followed his fifth-inning homer with a line-drive single to right field in the sixth.
No team has employed a shift against Hoskins, and Mattingly explained why.
“We can’t put guys in the seats, can we now?” he said. “You really haven’t seen him hit a lot of balls on the ground. You’re only going to shift guys who put the ball on the ground.”
As impressed as Mattingly has been by Hoskins, he is not ready to declare that he is the greatest player in history.
“I’m sure teams are eventually going to go to work on this guy,” Mattingly said. “They’re going to figure out what you can do and what you can’t do and where he hits the ball. We’ve seen him hit the ball to right-center. He got a base hit to right. He hits the ball in the seats. He has had base hits to center field.
“You don’t see a lot of ground balls on one side of the field, so that tells you his swing is pretty good from the standpoint of using the whole field and hitting the ball where it is pitched. But this game is funny. We’ve seen a lot of guys, and I don’t want to say anything negative, but you have to stand the test of time.”
At least for the short time that Rhys Hoskins has been in the big leagues, no one has ever stood taller or displayed as much power.