Championship Sunday? ‘I can't imagine what it's going to be like,' says Hoskins


There's a big photograph on the wall outside of the Phillies' spring training clubhouse in Clearwater. The wide-angle shot captures Citizens Bank Park, with the players mobbing each other on the field and the fans celebrating in the seats, just moments after the team won the 2008 World Series.

The morning after the Phillies signed Bryce Harper in March 2019, Rhys Hoskins was chatting with reporters about what it all meant for the team and the city. He looked at the big picture on the wall and smiled.

Yeah, Harper's signing signaled that the Phillies were on their way again.

"That's what we all want to feel," Hoskins said, motioning toward the picture.

To feel the euphoria of winning the World Series, a team must first get to the World Series.

The Phillies are just one win away after Saturday night's 10-6 win over the San Diego Padres in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park. The place will be rocking Sunday afternoon for Game 5. Things line up pretty favorably for a clinch. Ace Zack Wheeler will be on the mound. Bullpen aces Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez will be rested and ready to go. And the offense is smoking hot after Saturday night's four-homer barrage helped the team come back from a four-run deficit and a two-run deficit to secure the win.

"I'm so excited for tomorrow," Harper said late Saturday night. "I know I keep saying kind of the same thing, but we're all just so grateful for the opportunity to be here."

The Phillies entered the postseason tournament as the sixth and final seed in the National League.

"I don't think any of us are in shock," Harper said. "We're one of the last teams playing right now, and it's really cool to see that. When you look at the scoreboard and nobody's playing that day, just you, you're grateful for the opportunity to be here."

Hoskins acknowledged that there was still work to do, that Yu Darvish will be a difficult challenge in Game 5. But he knows where the Phillies stand. This is the moment he and his teammates have waited for. None of them want to get on an airplane Sunday night and fly to San Diego for a Game 6 Monday.

"You can't write it better for the guys in that clubhouse, for the staff, for everybody in this organization, but I think most importantly for the city," Hoskins said. "Yeah, you can't write it better. I can't imagine what tomorrow is going to be like."

The last two days were emotional for Hoskins. He heard boos from the home crowd after a difficult night in the field in Game 4 on Friday night and thunderous cheers after a two-homer night in Game 5 on Saturday.

Both of Hoskins' homers were two-run shots. One helped the Phillies start their rebound from an early 4-0 deficit. The other tied the game in the fifth.

"He just looks so comfortable and confident at the plate," reliever David Robertson said of Hoskins. "He's a bad man right now."

Harper had two huge RBI doubles, including the one that put the Phils ahead in the fifth inning. As he stood on second base, with the crowd of 45,467 going crazy, he shouted, "This is my house!"

"I don't know what the number was, 46,000, give or take," he said. "It's 46,000 with 26 of them on the field. Just having all of us together in that moment -- it's just so much fun."

Harper is having a brilliant postseason. He's hitting .410 (16 for 39) with six doubles, four homers, nine RBIs and a 1.311 OPS in 10 games. The Phillies are 8-2 in those 10 games. His 10 extra-base hits are already tied with Jayson Werth (2008) and Ryan Howard (2009) for most by a Phillie in a single postseason. Werth got his 10 extra-base hits in 62 plate appearances and Howard in 64. Harper has done it in 41.

What a night it was for the Phillies' top five hitters on Saturday. Kyle Schwarber, Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, Harper and Nick Castellanos were a combined 9 for 18 with three doubles, four homers, nine RBIs, three walks and just one strikeout.

"If you think about the year, we haven't had those five guys together all that much," manager Rob Thomson said. "Coming down the stretch, we finally got them all together.

"Tonight is like one of those nights where you think that's what you have when you put it together in spring training."

Harper was thrilled for Hoskins. The Phillies' first baseman has struggled defensively during the postseason and has been booed at home for it. He made an error that led to a run Friday night and was booed.

"We believe in him," Harper said. "We all believe in what he can do. We know how our fans are. We love that about them. They're going to let you know. It is what it is.

"Then he comes back and has an incredible night tonight. Two huge at-bats for us, and in those moments, we needed those. Our fan base knows it, and that's why we love them. They're going to boo you when you're bad. I totally understand it. I get it. And they're going to love you when you're really good.

"He was probably booing himself, too, just like I was yesterday when I hit into a double play. I absolutely love that about them. They show out for us each night, and they get it."

Hoskins never whines about the boos. He takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

His power bat helped the Phils dispatch Atlanta in the Division Series. It helped the Phillies move to within one win of the World Series on Saturday night.

That picture on the wall in Clearwater still lives in Hoskins' head.

"It feels like we're living it," he said. "You can feel the electricity building.

"I need some more. I need some more of it."

Maybe Sunday. Maybe the Phillies will become National League Champions on Sunday.

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