Rhys Hoskins turns boos to thunderous cheers with a swing right out of the glory years


When Rhys Hoskins signed with the Phillies as a fifth-round draft pick out of Sacramento State University in the summer of 2014, memories of the team's championship run from 2007 to 2011 were still fresh in the mind.

The October wins.

The sellout crowds.

The big pitching performances.

The dramatic home runs.

Hoskins heard about it all.

"Seeing pictures, hearing stories, being around guys that were there, that type of thing," he said.

It took a while, but Hoskins finally experienced all of the above on Friday afternoon.

Like those old Phillies teams of Jimmy, Chase, Ryan, Cole, Chooch and Big Chuck, he felt the euphoria of a big October win.

He heard the noise and felt the ballpark shake.

He saw his buddy, Aaron Nola, a product of the same draft, pitch an October gem.

And he felt the joy of hitting a huge postseason home run, just like the guy who threw out the ceremonial first pitch, a guy named Shane Victorino, once did.

The Phillies are one win away from advancing to the National League Championship Series. They got there with an electrifying 9-1 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NL Division Series at Citizens Bank Park.

They got there because Nola continued his recent stretch of brilliance.

They got there because Rhys Hoskins was down -- way down -- but not out.

He booted a ball at first base and that led to a 3-0 loss in Game 2 in Atlanta on Wednesday night.

Back home for Game 3 Friday, Hoskins was reminded of his misplay in pre-game introductions. The boos were noticeable. And they got louder after he struck out in the first inning to fall to 1 for 19 in four postseason games.

In the third inning, Hoskins turned the boos into an eruption of joy from the sellout crowd of 45,528. He jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Braves starter Spencer Strider and sent it into the left-field seats for a three-run homer to put the Phillies up 4-0.

Citizens Bank Park shook just like Hoskins heard it did back in the glory days.

"God, it was loud," he said after the game.

The roar of the crowd was seared into Hoskins' eardrums, but it took a couple of innings for him to realize how he had punctuated his home run, which was preceded by some very good at-bats from Brandon Marsh (four-pitch walk), Jean Segura (eight-pitch strikeout) and Bryson Stott (full-count RBI double).

The Braves walked Kyle Schwarber intentionally to set up a potential double play and get to Hoskins, who took that just a little bit personal.

"Of course," he said. "I'm human. I'm a competitor. They're obviously telling me something right away before I even step in the box. So, I'm ready to compete. And I think when you light a little bit of a fire under somebody they tend to hone in and focus a little bit more and I just didn't miss."

As the ball sailed out of the park at 107 mph, Hoskins raised his arms and spiked his bat ferociously to the ground. He shouted to the dugout and trotted around the bases as if on air.

When he crossed home plate, he celebrated with J.T. Realmuto and then with Bryce Harper, who told him, "We're not losing. We're not losing." Harper then went up and hit his own home run to make it 6-0.

Thank goodness that iPads are allowed in dugouts now because Hoskins did not remember his hellacious bat spike until Kyle Schwarber showed him a couple of innings later.

"That's what I did?!" an incredulous Hoskins said.

Yes, that's what you did. 

"Fix your divot," Garrett Stubbs joked with Hoskins after the game.

"They're still out there digging up the bat," Matt Vierling said.

Hoskins' emotional reaction was complete catharsis. The 1 for 19. The botched play in Game 3. The boos during introductions. The boos after the first-inning strikeout.

"I had a good view for it," said Realmuto, who was in the on-deck circle for the homer. "That was about as excited as I've ever been on a baseball field. Watching his reaction, there's definitely some pent-up frustration in that swing and that reaction. It was just a blast. That was a lot of fun.

"It was a tough play the other day. The fans let him hear it during introductions, after his first strikeout of the day. As much as we try not to pay attention to that stuff, it's impossible not to. And he responded just like we expect him to. He came up huge for us. He won the ballgame for us with that swing.

"It blew the roof off of our park, metaphorically. It was incredible. The stadium went wild. That's what he's here to do. He's our guy who comes up big in spots like that and he did tonight."

Hoskins had calmed down by the time he appeared in the postgame interview room. There was no whining about the boos. He can take it. Earlier in the week, he talked about what it's like to play in Philadelphia, how they'll tell you how you're playing with their reaction, how you have to have thick skin to make it in what he called "an honest market."

Nola, who himself has felt the honest critique of fans a time or two, revealed the key to Hoskins' ability to bounce back.

"He just keeps pressing," Nola said. "He doesn't ever hang his head. I've been with him quite a while. I never see him hang his head, no matter what the outcome is. Or if he made an error on first base, doesn't matter.

"He's always pushing through, always has that confidence that he's going to make the next play, going to get the next hit. It doesn't really surprise me what he did tonight."

In reflecting on his performance, Hoskins said, "It's crazy how one swing of the bat can change things, for good or for bad."

This was definitely for the good. The Phillies are one win away from their first NLCS since the glory days of 2010.

It all came back Friday. The October win. The great pitching performance. The big home run. The wild crowd.

"The crowd was incredible," Harper said. "Absolutely insane. Electric. Nothing that I could have ever dreamed about. It was, 'Whoa.' I get chills thinking about it because that was unbelievably cool.

"I hope it's like that for two more weeks."

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