TORONTO — Rhys Hoskins dropped his bat in the dirt near home plate on Friday night and began jogging to first base when he heard a voice call out behind him.
"Strike," home plate umpire Pat Hoberg barked.
Hoskins thought he had worked a walk to load the bases in the ninth inning. Instead, he was returning to home plate to plead his case with Hoberg after recording the final out of a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays. The umpire said the full-count slider from Ken Giles touched the outside of the plate. Hoskins shook his head and disagreed.
It was the final frustrating moment in a night full of them for the Phillies as they racked up 10 hits but had little to show for them. They were stymied by a rookie pitcher and failed to pick up ground as the first-place Braves fell to the Marlins.
The Phillies have lost five of their last six games and they trail the Braves by three games with 34 games left.
"We need the Braves to lose a few. And we need to play better," losing pitcher Jake Arrieta said. "That's it. There's really nothing magical you can say. We need to play better. The Braves need to not play as well. If those two things happen, we'll be fine."
All but one of the Phillies' hits were singles. They went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and 3-for-13 with runners on base. They could not connect the dots of a rally.
They finally threatened in the ninth when the Phils reached two runners on with one out against former Phillies closer Giles. But Cesar Hernandez struck out swinging and Hoskins went down looking on that borderline strike after fouling off a high fastball from Giles. The Phillies came up short again with runners on base.
"That's the name of the game. You've got to get the big hit," Hoskins said. "Obviously, myself at the end, I know I came up with another time with a chance to get a big hit. That's really all you can ask for is the opportunity to do that. Didn't do it tonight, but hopefully we can have the same opportunities as the games come."
The Phillies scored just twice against Toronto lefthander Ryan Borucki, who had been chased from his last start after recording just two outs against the Yankees. Hernandez and Hoskins started the game with consecutive singles and the Phillies had their first run after just four batters. But they wouldn't get another run until Scott Kingery homered off Borucki in the seventh. Kingery had been thrown out at home in the second inning when third-base coach Dusty Wathan gambled and sent Kingery from second base on a one-out single to shallow center by Roman Quinn.
"I will say this, Dusty has been tremendous all season long. From my position, the best decision maker at third base in the game," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Obviously, it didn't work out in our favor and it hurt us and I'm not disputing that by any stretch, but I will say Dusty has been excellent all season long."
Arrieta allowed four runs in six innings. He struck out five, walked three, and kept the Phillies within striking distance after a shaky start. Kendrys Morales hit a solo homer off Arrieta in the second and Billy McKinney added a two-run homer in the third. Arrieta entered Friday with just two home runs allowed in his last seven starts.
Arrieta was lifted in the seventh after allowing the first two batters to reach base. Hector Neris, who was cast off to triple A last month, came in to strike out the side and strand Arrieta's runners on first and second. Neris has yet to allow run in six appearances since returning from the minors. He has recorded 16 outs, 11 of which have been strikeouts.
"There's no need to panic," Arrieta said. "But we need to stay locked into the game. In the dugout, on the field, you know what I mean? We're still in it. We're still right there. We need guys pulling for each other. Play good baseball. Have a little luck on our side. We still have a ton of games to play. We're still three out. Plenty of time. We all know we have seven games left against those guys. So we'd like to even it up a little bit more before we get there."
The Phillies had chances before the ninth but those would fizzle. Quinn and Hernandez reached with one out in the fifth but the Phils came up empty. Kingery's homer failed to spark a rally and Wilson Ramos stroked a single in the eighth but the next two hitters went down easy. Even with that, the Phillies had a chance in the ninth with their best hitter at the plate. But even their best hitter can have frustrating nights.