PHOENIX — Never mind that the Phillies entered Monday night one game off the pace for the best record in the National League.
They still can’t get much national love.
ESPN left the Phillies out of the top 10 in its weekly power rankings. A panel of five voters put them at No. 11, trailing five NL teams including the Atlanta Braves, who were 1 1/2 games behind the Phillies in the NL East.
The snub didn’t escape the notice of slugger Rhys Hoskins, who reacted with a tweet Monday: “Anyone remember what happened the last time a Philly sports team was the underdog? #hungrydogs”
— Rhys Hoskins (@rhyshoskins) August 6, 2018
But manager Gabe Kapler likely doesn’t mind if his players are motivated by the lack of recognition. Publicly, at least, Kapler seemed largely unfazed.
“We haven’t been in the top 10 yet, have we?” he said. “And we’re doing pretty good. Pretty proud of where we are with this club.”
After losing 96 games last season, the Phillies were 63-48 entering Monday’s game. If they go only 27-24 in their last 51 games, they will finish with 90 wins.
“We’re healthy and we’ve managed to stay pretty healthy all year long, our bullpen is as deep as it’s been all year, our bench is looking like a bench where we can deploy it to help us win a ball game rather than to just get through it,” Kapler said. “I’d say we’re still very young and developing, which leaves room for some upside and some ceiling.”
In addition to being the Phillies’ leading run producer with 72 RBIs entering Monday night, Hoskins is also among the most patient hitters in franchise history. In fact, with two walks in his 151st career game Saturday night, he became the fastest Phillies player to reach 100 free passes, eclipsing Don Hurst, who got to the mark in 170 games in 1928-29.
Kapler likened Hoskins’ combination of power and patience to Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt and Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto, a high compliment despite the fact that Votto, in particular, is sometimes criticized for being too patient.
“I respect the position that the best hitters drive in runs,” Kapler said. “My position is that Joey Votto is a near-ideal offensive package just the way he is, and if you try to change that package, he might not be as [powerful] as he is as an all-around hitter. I think it’s the definition of a good offensive player — aggressive on pitches in the zone, extremely passive on pitches outside the zone, and at the end of those at-bats, you can hit the ball out of the ballpark. That is a good hitter.”
Kapler characterized righthander Jerad Eickhoff as “really encouraged” after he pitched two scoreless innings Saturday for high-A Clearwater, the continuation of a rehab assignment that has been stopped several times because of numbness in his fingers. Eickhoff is scheduled to pitch three innings Wednesday for Clearwater and could be a consideration for a September call-up if he keeps progressing. “We just want him to be feeling good and stretch him out a little bit and then decide what we do,” Kapler said. … Righthander Nick Pivetta will be opposed Tuesday night by Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke, who is 7-1 with a 1.68 ERA in his last nine starts.
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