Jun 4, 2024

Rhys Lightning Strikes Philadelphia

One of the motivating factors when I'm picking which Phillies games to go to at the start of the season is whether or not I've already seen the visiting team play in person.  As of today, the only teams that I have yet to see in a live game are the Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies.

I already saw the Brewers play back in 2009, but there was no way I could pass up the opportunity to see Rhys Hoskins in his first game at Citizens Bank Park since he signed with Milwaukee.  I had no way of knowing when I bought these tickets over the winter that I'd be watching two first place teams battle it out in early June in what may very well turn out to be a preview of the post-season.

This game was a bittersweet experience.  On one hand, it was an excellent game and a very cool experience to welcome Rhys Hoskins back to Citizens Bank Park.  However, I originally got these tickets to see the game with my dad.  He's been having some health concerns recently that kept him from being able to come out to the ballpark.  Hopefully we can make it to a game soon.

The announced starters for the game were Phillies ace Zack Wheeler against Brewers right hander Bryse WilsonWheeler did start for the Phillies, and Wilson did pitch the most innings of the game for the Brewers, but Milwaukee have been using an "opener" to pitch the first inning in some games, so left-handed reliever Jared Koenig pitched the first inning.  I'm not entirely opposed to this strategy, and it did seem to work out for the Brewers as Koenig quickly retired Kyle Schwarber, JT Realmuto, and Bryce Harper on three straight groundouts.

The real story of this game was Rhys Hoskins returning to Philadelphia.  He hasn't played a game on this field since the 2022 World Series.  He missed all of 2023 due to injury, and with Bryce Harper at first base and Kyle Schwarber at DH, he didn't have a place to play in Philly by the time he hit free agency before the start of this season.  It's just one of those things that can happen in baseball.

I've followed Rhys Hoskins for most of his professional career.  I got to see him play in Lehigh Valley alongside JP Crawford, Dylan Cozens and Scott Kingery.  I was in attendance for his first MLB hit, and for his 8th career MLB home run, which occurred during an incredible stretch in August 2017 in which he became the fastest player in MLB history to hit ten home runs in the big leagues.  I've followed the highs, the lows, the bat spikes, and the injuries, and over the past 8+ years, he has become one of my favorite Phillies of all time.  Being in attendance for this night seemed almost mandatory.

The Phillies played a nice video package before the start of the game to honor Hoskins contributions in Philadelphia.  That got a great reaction, but it paled in comparison to his first at-bat in the top of the 2nd inning.  I took a video of it from our seats in Section 421, but this video from MLB.com of the Brewers broadcast of the game does a much better job of capturing Hoskins reaction to the standing ovation that he was given by the fans.  Even if you're not a baseball fan... even if you have no context of what is going on in the moment... that has to give you chills.

There is a ton of credit to go all around for this incredible moment.  First of all, all of the respect in the world goes to home plate umpire Sean Barber, who recognized the importance of the moment and suspended the pitch clock to allow it to happen.  I'm sure there are some umpires who wouldn't have been as respectful of the game and its players and fans, but Mr. Barber is a true class act.  Secondly, the fans in attendance gave Hoskins the respect he deserves.  The national media likes to characterize Philadelphia fans as classless jerks, mostly for a few isolated incidents that took place years before I was born.  I'm in my mid 40's, by the way, so we're talking about things that took place roughly a half century ago or longer.  Hoskins reacted with class and dignity, as did all of the other players on the field on both sides.  The whole game played out almost like a Rhys Hoskins appreciation night, and you could not have scripted the game on the field any better than the way that it played out.

Hoskins popped out in his first at-bat in the top of the 2nd.  He drew a walk in the top of the 5th and stole second base.  He came around to attempt to score off of a Blake Perkins single to center field, but Johan Rojas made an incredible throw to gun him down at the plate.  Hoskins came up to the plate one more time in the top of the 7th and hit a solo home run to left field.  There was a split of cheers and boos for this in the crowd, but it was mostly cheers by the time he crossed home plate.  I'm sure it would have been different if it gave the Brewers the lead, but all it did was narrow the Phillies lead to 3-1, which ended up being the final score of the game.

One of the cool stories of this game that has gotten lost in the Rhys Hoskins return was the Phillies debut of left fielder David DahlDahl was the Colorado Rockies first round draft pick in 2012 who tied the all-time record with a 17 game hitting streak to start off his MLB career in August 2016, and who made the NL All-Star Team in 2019.  However, a string of injuries that started during the 2020 season derailed his career.  He has spent the past four seasons bouncing between the Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Padres, and Dodgers organizations before signing a minor league contract with the Phillies on February 17th of this year.  His signing flew completely under my radar at the time, but he has raked this season with the Iron Pigs with a slash line of .340/.416/.660 with 12 home runs, 26 RBI, and one game in which he hit for the cycle.

No one is expecting Dahl to break through the Phillies incredibly talented outfield to land a starting job, but this is a guy who was at one time a top prospect, and it's not completely unheard of for a 30 year old player who has been hampered by injuries to rebound after getting healthy.  His opportunity to return to the big leagues came yesterday morning when Brandon Marsh and Kody Clemens were both placed on the IL, and he responded in his first game as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies by continuing to produce the way he did in Lehigh Valley.  He singled in the bottom of the 2nd to put runners on first and third.  Edmundo Sosa and Johan Rojas both followed up with consecutive RBI singles which allowed Dahl to score to give the Phillies an early 2-0 lead.  In his next at-bat in the bottom of the 4th, Dahl hit a solo home run to right field that increased the Phillies lead to 3-0.

In all likelihood, Dahl will be sent back down to Lehigh Valley when everyone is healthy, but it's depth like this that makes the difference between a contending team and a championship team.  Injuries happen over the course of a 162 game season, and it's good to know that there are talented prospects and hungry veterans working their way back to a full-time spot in the big leagues who can step in and produce.

I couldn't find separate videos of the key moments of the game, but this game recap video captured them all.  The whole game played out like it was scripted by Hollywood.  Below are shortcuts to skip ahead.

What a cool game!  This is easily in the top 5 games that I've ever been fortunate enough to be in attendance for at Citizens Bank Park.  It's the Phillies 42nd win of the season.  They're tied with the Yankees for the best record in MLB, and they've increased their lead over the Braves to seven games.  Things are looking very good right now for the Fightins!