March 23, 2023

Hoskins turns from hated to hero in Game 3 win

Philadelphia Phillies' Rhys Hoskins (17) hits a three-run home run during the third inning in Game 3 of baseball's National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

In Game 2, Rhys Hoskins made a costly error to lose in Atlanta.

Two days later in Game 3, he became the hero.

Hoskins received a few boos during introductions and even more after he went down swinging in the first inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Friday, but that all ended two innings later.

Hoskins smacked a three-run home run into the left-field seats to help the Phillies earn a 9-1 victory over the Braves in the first postseason game played at Citizens Bank Park in 11 years.

The victory, in front of an extremely loud, sellout crowd of 45,538, gave the Phillies a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-five series. A win in Game 4 Saturday afternoon would send the Phillies to the NL Championship Series for the first time since 2010 when they lost to the San Francisco Giants. A loss would send them back to Atlanta for a Game 5 on Sunday.

Aaron Nola continued his role as a big-game pitcher.

The longest-tenured Phillie went six innings and gave up five hits and just an unearned run. Over his last three starts — the postseason clincher in Houston, the first-round playoff clincher in St. Louis, and this one — he has allowed just an unearned run in 19 1/3 innings.

The Braves named Spencer Strider their starter Friday morning. His status was up in the air because he had not pitched since September 18 because of an oblique strain.

The Braves’ hope was to get two or three good innings out of Strider against a Phillies team that he dominated during the regular season.

In 21 2/3 innings against the Phils, Strider had allowed just three runs and struck out 34.

The right-hander came out firing in the first two innings. He struck out three of the first four batters he faced. That all changed in the bottom of the third inning.

He lost his command, his velocity, and more. He walked the first batter, Brandon Marsh, on four pitches, then made a brutal pickoff throw to first base, allowing Marsh to get to third.

Jean Segura struck out for the first out but made Strider throw eight pitches. Then Bryson Stott battled Strider for nine pitches and capped off the battle by stroking a full-count slider to right field for an RBI double and a 1-0 lead.

With first base open and just one out, the Braves intentionally walked Kyle Schwarber to set up a possible double play. Also, Hoskins was due up. He was 1-for-19 in the postseason and had struck out swinging at a heater in the first inning.

But by this time, Strider was already running out of gas. He threw Hoskins the first-pitch fastball but this one was about five miles-per-hours slower. And man oh man, Hoskins did not miss it. He barreled it and bombed it over the left-field wall at 107 mph for a 4-0 lead.

Hoskins knew it right away. He spiked his bat to the ground like Rob Gronkowski and screamed at the dugout as he began his trot around the bases, which turned into a sprint. It was his biggest and most important home run in his six seasons with the big-league club, and the huge crowd showed its appreciation with an eruption that rivaled some from the glory days of 2007-2011.

After Hoskins’ homer, J.T. Realmuto singled which led to a Strider exit.

But the Phillies weren’t done creating eruptions at the Bank. Bryce Harper unloaded on lefty Dylan Lee’s first pitch and sent it deep into the right-field seats for a 6-0 lead.

Nola made it all stand up. The Phillies played awful defense — Alec Bohm was shaky at third and Hoskins dropped a ball at first — and that led to the Braves scoring an unearned run in the sixth. But Nola pitched over the mistakes and he got some run support.

The Phils built their lead to 9-1 with three runs in the seventh. Harper doubled home one of the runs and Nick Castellanos singled home two more.

The Phillies will hand the ball over to Noah Syndergaard as their Game 4 starter for Saturday. Charlie Morton will go for the Braves. If the Phils win Saturday, they will be heading to either Los Angeles or San Diego for the NLCS.

It was electric in the ballpark Friday night. Expect no different Saturday.

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