Years from now, when they roll highlights from the 2022 Phillies’ postseason run, the clip of Rhys Hoskins demolishing a ball into the left-field seats, raising both arms, and spiking his bat – and let’s be clear: this was a Jalen Hurts -quality spike – will play prominently.
It should. Aside from being the clutchest hit of Hoskins’ career, it sent the Phillies on the way to a 9-1 thrashing of the Atlanta Braves on Friday in Game 3 of the best-of-five National League Division Series and may prove to be the blast that broke the defending World Series champions.
Talk about an instantly iconic Philadelphia sports moment.
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“Guy’s been here since the beginning of his career,” said backup catcher Garrett Stubbs, who was referring to Hoskins but may as well have been talking about homegrown ace Aaron Nola’s latest gem that pushed the Phillies to the brink of reaching the NL Championship Series . “To be in his first postseason and go hit a homer like that – at home for the first [game] in however many years – oof. It’s frickin ‘awesome. “
But if we’re talking about the moment when playoff baseball truly returned to Citizens Bank Park after an 11-year absence, when the decibel levels at the yard in South Philly rose like they hadn’t since, what, Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in the 2010 NLDS, you have to rewind the tape by two batters.
You have to go back to Bryson Stott.
Hoskins was not yet in the on-deck circle in the third inning when the rookie shortstop dug in against flame-throwing Braves starter Spencer Strider. The first pitch was low and away. The next two were called strikes. Another ball. Then, as Strider reached back for whatever velocity he still could muster in his first start in 26 days, Stott fouled off four fastballs in a row, the sellout crowd of 45,538 getting louder each time.
Figuring he sped up Stott’s bat, Strider turned down the heat. He threw a slider, 86 mph and not low enough, and Stott lined it into right field for a double that scored Brandon Marsh for the first run of the game.
Cue the delirium.
“The atmosphere was crazy,” Stott said. “I can finally hear, so that’s good. They said they were going to show up, and they did. “
Said manager Rob Thomson: “I think the at-bat that really got us going was Stott’s at-bat, how he was grinding and grinding, fouling pitches off.”
Delirium turned into bedlam with Hoskins’ three-run homer and sprint around the bases. The first baseman was 1-for-18 with six strikeouts in the playoffs. A ball went underneath his glove di lui at a critical moment of Game 2. He heard a smattering of boos when his name of lui was called during pregame introductions.
But now, Hoskins leaped in the air and smashed elbows with Stott. He slapped hands with Kyle Schwarber. The crowd stood. Red rally towels waved.
Just like the old days.
How loud was it? Stott wears an earpiece to hear catcher JT Realmuto’s signs. He had to crank the volume to 20. His usual setting di lui: 8.
“And I still had to cover it to hear what pitch was coming,” Stott said.
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When Bryce Harper lifted a two-run homer to cap the six-run third inning, the ground practically shook beneath his neon green Phanatic cleats.
The crowd thundered again when Nola walked off the mound after allowing one unearned run on five hits in six innings. He hasn’t been charged with a run in 19⅓ innings over his last three starts, including 12⅓ in the postseason.
And the fans roared again after Connor Brogdon ended the game with a strikeout and the Phillies walked off the field to the chorus of Dancing On My Owntheir adopted postseason anthem.
Red October? You bet. With 11 years of pent-up emotion to boot.
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“Absolutely insane,” Harper said. “Electric. Nothing that I could have ever dreamed about. It was … whoa. I’ve got chills again because that was unbelievably cool. I hope it’s like that for the next two weeks. “
When the Phillies left on the evening of Sept. 25 for a season-ending 10-day road trip, nobody knew if they would make it back. Even if they made the playoffs, they would play the wild-card round entirely on the road.
But after ending an 11-year playoff drought by claiming the last NL wild card and vanquishing the St. Louis Cardinals for their first postseason series victory in 12 years, the Phillies are on the brink of reaching the NLCS for the first time since 2010.
Who would’ve thought?
“Actually we did,” Harper said. “I didn’t think there was any doubt. I really didn’t. Every single time we were able to get to the field, we were trying to win, trying to get back to where we are right now. “
The Braves didn’t divulge their Game 3 starter until about seven hours before the first pitch. In going with Strider, they took a calculated risk. He hadn’t pitched since Sept. 18 because of a strained muscle in his side of him.
But Strider was Phillies kryptonite. They went 7-for-74 against the rookie sensation in three regular-season meetings. He throws primarily fastballs, but, as Alec Bohm said a few months ago, his heater di lui is “different.”
For two innings, Strider overpowered the Phillies, lighting up the radar gun with 97s and 98s, even touching 100.6 mph, and retired the first six batters on 29 pitches.
But when he came back out for the third inning, his fastball was coming out at 95 and 96. He walked Marsh on four pitches. He lacked the sizzle to put away Stott.
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“That was the first time he would throw some at 95,” Stott said. “He’s always been 98 to 100 against us. He threw a couple down and we were able to get to him. “
Stott got it all started. Like Brett Myers’ walk against CC Sabathia before Shane Victorino’s grand slam in the 2008 NLDS.
Victorino, coincidentally, threw out the first pitch Friday after the highlight of his homer played on Phanavision. The crowd roared then, just as they will someday for Hoskins.
“From the very first pitch, it was nuts,” Stott said. “We heard about how special it was here during the playoffs. Definitely didn’t disappoint. “
Neither did the Phillies.