Dan Straily craned his neck Wednesday night to follow the flight of Rhys Hoskins' home run. The Marlins pitcher tilted his neck some more as the shot soared to left field. And then even a bit more until he finally – finally – had Hoskins' towering blast in his sights.
It was another day and another titanic home run by Hoskins, who hit his 17th homer in an 8-1 win over the Marlins. The homer traveled 369 feet in the fifth inning and it seemed to hang over Citizens Bank Park for an eternity. It was the type of blast that makes you, well, crane your neck.
Hoskins leads all of baseball in homers since he reached the majors on Aug. 10. He is the fastest player in baseball history to hit 17 career homers, reaching the mark in just 33 games. It is five more than the next closest player. Hoskins is the fastest Phillies player to hit 17 in a single season since Cy Williams hit 17 in his first 32 games of 1923. Pete Mackanin has been in baseball for nearly a half century and even he has never seen something like this.
"I've been around to see a lot of different players. Vladimir Guerrero comes to mind where he was just not necessarily the home runs, but you couldn't throw a ball anywhere where he couldn't hit a line drive somewhere," Mackanin said. "Rhys has probably been the most impressive to me. We've seen guys come up in September and have good spring trainings and for a week really go off and hit home runs and go on a good hitting streak. But this guy looks like the real deal where he's had his moments here or there, but he just rebounds quickly because he has such a good approach at the plate. He knows what to look for. He studies the film. He knows hitting."
Hoskins' homer was followed an inning later by a two-run shot from Odubel Herrera that landed in the second deck of right field. It was such a blast that Herrera forgot to flip his bat. The Phillies scored eight runs for Aaron Nola, who allowed just one run in seven innings and struck out a career-high 11. Nola allowed just four hits, including a homer by Christian Yelich, and walked two. He had command of his curveball and used the often-devastating pitch to rack up eight strikeouts, all but one of which were strikeouts. Nola gave the Phillies exactly what they hope to see at the top of their rotation in 2018.
Not only did Hoskins homer, but he again showed his tremendous discipline at the plate. And that is perhaps what makes this stretch not feel like a fluke. He drove in the team's first run with a first-inning sacrifice fly. He worked a walk in the third and his homer was a mistake – an up-and-in fastball – that Hoskins did not miss. He does not miss mistakes. His home run streak will fade. It has to. But more important, it is grounded in an approach that seems unlikely to change.
"He's a smart hitter," Mackanin said. "He's kind of reminiscent of Chase Utley in a way, in that regard. I'm not comparing him to Chase Utley, but in that regard, I am. It tells you he's a very disciplined hitter. And we've preached plate discipline, and that's how you become a great hitter."