Phillies' offense finally breaks through in rubber-game win over Rockies

Rhys Hoskins hits a solo home run in the first inning of the Phillies win over the Rockies on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.

One by one, they came to the plate. And one after another, they reached base. A single here, a double there, a few walks mixed in for good measure until nine players had batted, four runs had crossed the plate and the Phillies could finally say they mounted an honest-to-goodness rally.

“We needed it today,” hitting coach John Mallee said.

It was a long time coming, this seventh-inning outburst in a 9-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies before midweek matinee announced crowd of 22,500 at Citizens Bank Park. How long? Try 257 innings dating back to May 10 against the San Francisco Giants. That’s how long the Phillies had gone without scoring more than three runs in a single inning.

The Phillies rank second in the league in pitches per plate appearance. They have the best walk rate in the majors. They know how to grind out an at-bat, how to make a pitcher work. And yet they had notched at least 10 hits in a game only once since May 17 and hadn’t scored more than six runs in a game since May 19.

Surprising, right?

“Yeah, a little bit,” slugger Rhys Hoskins said. “The process has been there. Sometimes it just feels like every break doesn’t go our way. We know that we’re capable of [high-scoring innings] every time we step on the field. But it’s nice to see it finally happen.”

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Vince Velasquez lost both a no-hitter and a shutout with two outs in the seventh inning when Trevor Story lined Velasquez’s 105th pitch for an RBI double. Reliever Tommy Hunter gave up an RBI single, and the Phillies’ lead had been cut to 3-2 with seven outs left for the bullpen to get.

So, you could almost hear manager Gabe Kapler exhale after Andrew Knapp reached on an infield single, Scott Kingery singled, J.P. Crawford drew a walk, Knapp scored on a passed ball, Hoskins roped an RBI double and both Odubel Herrera and Carlos Santana drove in runs with singles.

That’s what a rally looks like, just in case the Phillies forgot.

“It felt normal,” Hoskins said. “It felt like it should.”

Hoskins went 3 for 5 with a homer and three RBIs, the clearest sign yet that he’s over the miserable month-long slump that preceded a 10-day stint on the disabled list with a fractured jaw.

It helped, too, that Herrera picked up two hits. After carrying the offense for most of the season’s first two months, he entered the day mired in an 8-for-63 (.127)  funk that dropped his average from .339 to .283.

“I don’t think you can put it on any one guy. I think that’s a little bit unfair,” Hoskins said. “Obviously he’s a talented hitter, he does things that a lot of us can’t do and it’s fun to watch. I think it was just one of those stretches with him. I don’t think that he thinks that he’s slumping. I don’t think he’s lost confidence at all. I think you saw that today in his at-bats.”

Santana, Knapp, and Nick Williams also notched two hits apiece, with Williams clobbering his eighth homer in 146 at-bats this season to lead off the second inning. The Phillies pounded 13 hits, their highest total in a game since a 20-hit barrage way back on April 7 against the Miami Marlins.

If the past month has proven anything, it’s that the Phillies are at least one middle-of-the-order hitter short of having a truly dangerous offense. But while they wait for Manny Machado to reach free agency over the winter, they still have enough good hitters to be more productive than they have been.

The question now is whether the seventh inning against the Rockies was the start of something big or merely a rally that happens every 250 innings or so.

“Our whole thing is getting on base and then we’re not getting the big hit, especially with two out,” Mallee said. “To see our guys do that today, hopefully that momentum just keeps us going into the next series.”