Dee Gordon kicked the mess around first base into a pile. The Phillies had mobbed Hyun Soo Kim, ripped his jersey from his body and showered him with water and gum and whatever else they snatched from the dugout. But they had not won.
The Phillies bat boy helped Gordon collect the debris. Then, once the umpires ruled Cesar Hernandez out at home, the grounds crew emerged in the ninth inning Tuesday night — to sweep gum. The game continued. Forever.
The Phillies won Tuesday, then they lost. Then they played another seven innings and beat the Marlins, 9-8, with a 15th-inning Nick Williams double. They overcame a five-run deficit, celebrated a win that did not exist, and surrendered another lead only to tie it with one swing. It took 4 hours, 57 minutes and two Rhys Hoskins homers to make it happen.
“He’s an alien,” Williams said. “He’s not human. It’s not real. It’s crazy.”
“That guy is pretty good himself, too,” Hoskins said, “so I guess we can be alien friends.”
Indeed, this was a weird night.
It should have ended sooner. Kim slashed a single to right with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth. Williams scored the tying run. Hernandez, inserted as a pinch-runner, should have scored ahead of Giancarlo Stanton’s throw. But his slide was bad. Very bad. A review that lasted 1 minute, 42 seconds confirmed that.
The game resumed. Odubel Herrera struck out. It went to extra innings. Hector Neris surrendered a homer to Marcell Ozuna on his sixth pitch.
Hoskins redeemed everyone with his 16th homer in his 32nd game. He smashed a 100-mph fastball to dead center with two outs in the 10th inning. When he steps to the plate, anything is possible. That is such a foreign feeling for Phillies followers.
“This guy is unbelievable,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “What a bonus he’s been to our lineup.”
This is, of course, a different roster than the one that accumulated chunks of summertime losses. The Phillies who jogged onto the grass Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park had not yet been grouped together, not all at once, and it was another glimpse. Their outfielders — 24, 25 and 26 years old — were whole again. Their 24-year-old slugging first baseman joined them at his natural position. Their 22-year-old top prospect manned a new spot, second base. Their 24-year-old catcher started.
But Nick Pivetta allowed seven runs in five innings. Pivetta, 24, has a 6.75 ERA in his 23 starts. Only one pitcher with at least 20 starts in his first season has ever posted a worse mark: Colby Lewis stumbled to a 7.30 ERA in 2003 as a rookie with Texas. Pivetta has endured a historic beating.
That must be corrected. For now, Hoskins provides a distraction from the carnage with every time at bat.
He drew two walks in his first two plate appearances, the second of which helped lead to a run. Then, in the seventh, he mashed a hanging slider from Dustin McGowan to the second deck in left field. Ozuna, the Marlins leftfielder, never moved. Hoskins’ 15th home run was a prodigious shot.
Hoskins debuted Aug. 10 and he is now tied for third on the team in home runs. And he will play first base for the rest of the season. Before the game, Mackanin said as much. With a replenished outfield that includes Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr, who missed time with hamstring injuries, it was bound to happen.
“With Altherr back in the mix, it makes it more difficult for me to play [Hoskins] in the outfield,” Mackanin said. “I’ve spoken to Tommy Joseph about it and he understands.”
Hoskins has a chance at leading the Phillies in home runs. The current leader is Joseph, at 21, with Maikel Franco at 20. Counting his triple-A barrage, Hoskins has amassed 45 homers in 2017.
He has a .424 on-base percentage with the Phillies.
The Phillies have valued that number because they have made outs at too frequent a rate for years. The team’s on-base percentage has improved to .315 from .301 a season ago.
Is it possible next year’s lineup resembles this one? Maybe, Mackanin said, but not without a caveat: He likes Hernandez atop it. Whatever the combination, Hoskins is in the middle of it.