Say what you want about the Phillies' spate of tough losses this season and especially over the past few weeks. None comes close to matching the embarrassment of what happened Monday at Citizens Bank Park.
The opener of the Phillies' nine-game homestand had to be postponed because a bad weather report last Friday led to an uncovered infield that absorbed so much rain that it couldn't be dried with five blowtorches attached to gas tanks that were placed in wheelbarrows. (You can't make this stuff up.) It was the first time since Sept. 21, 1987, according to Retrosheet.org, that Major League Baseball postponed a game on account of wet grounds.
And so, with more rain in the forecast today and tomorrow, the Phillies will try to squeeze three games against the Nationals into two days. It will all begin today with a doubleheader scheduled to start at 3:05 p.m. It's the Nationals' last visit this season, so if the weather doesn't cooperate, it could be a long couple of days at the ballpark.
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Two months ago, when Rhys Hoskins was asked to compete in the Home Run Derby on the eve of the All-Star Game, he didn't think twice. The slugger wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to take part in an event that he used to watch on television.
But Hoskins also recognized a chance to represent the Phillies on a national stage.
"I think it's one of those things where there's not a whole lot of national media on us with what we've done so far this year," Hoskins said at the time. "That ball might be starting to roll a little bit faster now with being in first place. But it'll be cool. I think the more exposure that we can get as a team and an organization will be better for us down the road."
Hoskins received plenty of face time at the Derby, advancing to the second round. Since then, he has hung out with Little League sensation "Big Al" Delia in Williamsport and designed a Phillies cap for New Era. He shared on social media, for the world to see, that he proposed to his longtime girlfriend. And he earned the Phillies' nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to a player who combines on-field excellence with exemplary sportsmanship and community involvement.
In only 13 months since making his major-league debut, Hoskins has already become the face of the Phillies. But it appears he has the talent, the personality, and the desire to achieve stardom beyond the Delaware Valley.
Hoskins accepted an invitation to travel to Japan in November and represent MLB in the 2018 All-Star Tour with Nippon Professional Baseball, the league and the players' union announced jointly Monday. The list of early commitments to the group of barnstorming big leaguers includes NL MVP candidate Christian Yelich, longtime St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, and Braves rookie phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. The seven-game tour will begin Nov. 8 in Tokyo, and most of the games will be televised by MLB Network.
And it will be another opportunity for Hoskins to raise his profile.
At 4:30 p.m., Phillies vice president of business affairs Howard Smith expressed his confidence that Monday night's game would be played. At 7:10 p.m., it was postponed. Matt Breen has details on how the field conditions got so bad in the first place. (Hint: It wasn't because a bunch of players turned on the sprinklers.)
Nationals leadoff hitter Adam Eaton said the soggy infield felt like "pudding." Here's more reaction from the Nationals clubhouse to the postponement.
While the Phillies waited for their field to dry, the Braves won in San Francisco to increase their NL East lead to a season-high five games. Here are the details, courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Today: Let's play two! Phillies, Nationals attempt a doubleheader, 3:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola Day. Phillies ace vs. Stephen Strasburg, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Final off-day of the regular season for Phillies.
Friday: Struggling Zach Eflin starts series opener vs. Marlins, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Phillies and Marlins continue three-game series, 7:05 p.m.
As you may have heard, Bryce Harper is eligible for free agency after the season. It's possible, then, that this week could mark the star outfielder's last visit to Philadelphia as a member of the rival Nationals.
Harper has 23 career home runs against the Phillies — fifth most among active players, behind David Wright (36), Giancarlo Stanton (27), Ryan Zimmerman (25), and Ryan Braun (24). Thirteen of Harper's homers have come at Citizens Bank Park, tied with Braun, Adrian Gonzalez, Brian McCann, Hanley Ramirez and Zimmerman for third most among active players who never played for the Phillies. Only Wright (22) and Lucas Duda (14) have gone deep more often as visitors to the Bank.
Question: It is clear that [Zach] Eflin, [Nick] Pivetta and [Vince] Velasquez are not the answer going into 2019 and that the Phils need a dramatic upgrade to the starting pitching. Is there anyone in the next free-agent class who can complement [Aaron] Nola and [Jake] Arrieta? How about trading the $20 million first baseman for a quality No. 3 starter and putting [Rhys] Hoskins back on first where he belongs? Maybe Cesar [Hernandez] for a decent No. 5 and seeing if [Scott] Kingery is for real? All of this, of course, is predicated on signing [Manny] Machado. — Walt E., via e-mail