WASHINGTON — Rhys Hoskins showed up to work Saturday with one extra-base hit in his last seven games. He had two hits and 10 strikeouts in his last 24 at-bats. And he had gone 50 plate appearances without hitting a home run.
Under the circumstances, some hitters might lock themselves in a room and watch video until their eyes glazed over. Others might take so many swings in the batting cage that they could hardly lift their arms.
But the Phillies slugger didn’t want to change a thing. Hoskins insisted he trusts his process — a statement that says as much about his self-confidence as it does about his admiration for Joel Embiid.
And sure enough, the leftfielder came to the plate in the first inning against Washington Nationals starter Tanner Roark, saw seven pitches, and hit a two-run missile over the left-center-field fence that held up as the difference-maker in the Phillies’ 3-1 victory.
“I try to keep the process the same as much as I can,” Hoskins said before the game. “There’s a reason why the success was there before, right? There’s not really a whole lot of need to change that unless there’s a mechanical change that really needs to be made. And from what I feel and what I see on video, there isn’t really a whole lot of mechanical change needed.”
Indeed, manager Gabe Kapler said he had not noticed any difference in Hoskins’ mood or demeanor over the past week. In the clubhouse and around the batting cage, Hoskins tends to take the same approach whether he’s reaching base at a 50-percent clip, as he did through his first 100 plate appearances of the season, or barely on base at all.
It’s one of Hoskins’ most impressive qualities. And considering the success he has had since making his major-league debut last summer — since 1900, he’s the only player with at least 20 homers and 45 walks in his first 250 career plate appearances — the Phillies have been encouraged to see Hoskins respond so positively to a rough stretch.
“He’s very process-oriented, very routine-oriented, and he does that because it creates comfort for him,” Kapler said. “He’s human, so he’s experiencing frustration. But he also is confident in the long view. You can struggle for 15 at-bats, 30 at-bats or more, and still be the same at-bat dominator that he is.”
After Hoskins’ home run, starter Vince Velasquez held the Nationals to one hit in five innings. The bullpen combined to record the final 12 outs, and with a win Sunday over Nationals ace Max Scherzer, the Phillies can complete the six-game road trip with a .500 record.
Hoskins set the tone, as he usually does for the offense. A few days ago, despite Hoskins’ funk, Kapler moved him into the coveted No. 2 spot in the batting order, where Mike Trout hits for the Los Angeles Angels and Aaron Judge for the New York Yankees. And although Hoskins went 2 for 17 with seven strikeouts since the change, he insisted he had not noticed a difference in the way he was being pitched.
“Selfishly, if I get to hit with guys on base and with one of the hottest hitters in the league [Odubel Herrera] right behind me, I think there’s more of a chance that I get pitched to,” Hoskins said. “I think that bodes well for not only me but the team as well.”
Roark had little choice but to go after Hoskins in the first inning, after Cesar Hernandez led off the game with a single. Hoskins worked a seven-pitch at-bat, fouling off a slider and a fastball and laying off a dirt-diving change-up with two strikes. Roark came back with a sinker, and Hoskins didn’t miss.
“[I] saw the ball a lot better today,” Hoskins said, “and I think the swings showed it.”