PHILADELPHIA — Rhys Hoskins stood in front of his locker, ready to answer questions about the obvious.
The Phillies lost to the A’s on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, 4-1. They did not hit. Why?
Kyle Schwarber observed the scene from a few feet away. He offered a moment of levity before the questions started.
“Nobody can go 162-0,” he said. “It’s OK, all right? Just take it easy. We’ll be all right, guys. OK?”
The Phillies won their first two games against Oakland. They have 159 to play. If they win more series than they lose, they will like where they finish in October. But Sunday the Phillies had an opportunity to sweep a team that traded away its top talent over the past several weeks. They managed only three hits, hardly resembling the lineup that grinded down the A’s in the first two games of this series.
The Phillies saw 164 pitches in a 9-5 win on Opening Day. They saw 133 in Saturday’s 4-2 victory. They saw only 103 on Sunday, with A’s right-hander Daulton Jefferies getting the Phillies to swing early, throwing 48 pitches in five-plus innings.
“I think we had a lot of hard outs,” Hoskins said. “Yeah, we had some guys swinging at the first couple pitches, but a lot of barrels. If some of those fall, maybe it’s a different game. The guy is in the stretch more. But he attacked the zone. If you get a guy who’s going to attack the zone, get a pitch that you pick out before the at-bat and you get it, you’ve got to go.”
Nick Castellanos and Hoskins each had hard-hit outs in the second. Castellanos flied out to center on a ball hit 103.3 mph with an expected batting average of .880, according to Statcast. Hoskins lined out to center on a ball hit 107.1 mph with a .730 xBA. Bryce Harper lined out to right in the fourth on a ball hit 112.7 with an .870 xBA.
The Phillies hit seven balls 103.3 mph or harder. Only one was a hit: Jean Segura’s solo homer in the ninth.
“It just stinks when the balls don’t carry like we’re used to,” Hoskins said.
Philadelphia mustered six base runners. Four of them came from the bottom third of the lineup. Johan Camargo started at third base for the first time; he singled and walked. Garrett Stubbs started at catcher for the first time. (Joe Girardi said before the season that he planned to rest his everyday players early following a shortened Spring Training.) Stubbs reached on a bunt single. Rookie Matt Vierling walked once.
J.T. Realmuto is expected to be back in the lineup on Monday against the Mets. Didi Gregorius could be back at shortstop. Bryson Stott could be at third with Mets right-hander Taijuan Walker on the mound.
It should be a fun series. Both the Phillies and Mets made major moves in the offseason. The Phillies got Castellanos, Schwarber, Corey Knebel, Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia. The Mets got Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar and Chris Bassitt.
Each team thinks they can win the division.
“Obviously there’s a lot of good players on the field,” Hoskins said. “We got some of our horses on the mound going. They’re going to have some of theirs. I think we got a little taste of that at the end of last year with some of those series. But these games against the division are going to be intense. It’s going to be intense. We’ve got good teams up and down the division. They’re going to mean a lot. We’re going to beat up on each other; that’s what happens when you’ve got good teams that know each other. We’ve got to take care of business at home.”
It is a test, but perspective is always needed early. Phillies manager Joe Girardi remembered how his team swept the Braves to open the 2021 season, only to watch Atlanta win the World Series.
Still, there is nothing wrong with sending an early message.
“It’s important because they’re division games,” Girardi said. “The ones in April count a lot of times just as much as they do in June, July, September. It’s an important series for us.”