“I do know when a ball sounds like it’s clicked and when it’s not, and it sounded good,” Castellanos said following the Phillies’ 2-1 loss in 10 innings to the Rangers at Citizens Bank Park. “The ball sounded good.”
But as Castellanos watched Hoskins’ ball sail to deep center field in the bottom of the ninth, Rangers center fielder Adolis García settled underneath it. García caught the ball on the warning track. His momentum carried him gently into the fence.
Hoskins was just a few feet away from the first walk-off hit of his career. He raised his arms in disbelief.
Hoskins did not know it, but since Statcast started tracking batted balls in 2015, a ball hit like that with a 105 mph exit velocity and a 27-degree launch angle has been a home run 91.2 percent of the time.
“I feel like we’ve done that a lot lately and haven’t had much to show for it,” Hoskins said. “It just means there’s a lot coming. It’s hard to say [if it was a homer]. It’s still cold. Chillier. I’ve hit balls worse that have gone into the bullpen, but it’s hard to say. I thought I hit it well.”
“I thought it was gone,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “We all know the ball has changed a little bit. We know that. That’s part of it. But it’s the same for every team, right? So you’ve got to find ways to win games.”
The Phillies surrendered two runs in the 10th inning to spoil 7 2/3 scoreless innings from Zack Wheeler, who has not allowed a run in 13 2/3 innings over his last two starts. Wheeler struck out Corey Seager looking on a 97.5 mph in the first inning. It was his fastest pitch of the season. His four-seam fastball averaged 96.2 mph, a tick better than his season average.
It was encouraging because the Phillies need peak Wheeler to compete in the NL East.
It was also discouraging because they cannot afford to waste starts like this from him.
The Phillies are 11-14, and the schedule does not let up. They open a four-game series on Thursday night against the Mets, who are 4-2 against them this season.
“I don’t think it’s too early,” Girardi said about the importance of the series. “We need to play better. We need to find ways to win games and win series. We need to play better. They come out and they work hard every day. And they’re pissed. We’re all upset about this, right? But they have the ability to do it, and I believe they’re going to do it.”
The Phillies have been held to one or fewer runs seven times in 25 games, including two of the last five. Surprisingly, they still rank as one of baseball’s more productive offenses. They are fifth in MLB with a .717 OPS and a .403 slugging percentage. They entered the day seventh in runs per game, averaging 4.58.
It doesn’t feel like it, though, even to them.
“I wish I had an answer,” said Castellanos, who had a home run get downgraded to a double following a replay review in the sixth. “I really do. Sometimes in baseball, there are no answers. The only thing you can focus on is tomorrow. A lot of times, the more you try to figure out why, the more you can deviate from the only thing you can do, which is focus on what you can control, which is the next game you play.”
The Phillies like their collective approach at the plate. They see good swings. They hear hard contract.
They believe the results will come.
“It’s tough, right?” Hoskins said. “I think if you talked to us as a group, we feel like our process is pretty good. I know that our work in the cage and our work during BP is where it needs to be. Sometimes, the game can be cruel. That’s what makes this game so tough. You can do everything right throughout the day, and up until the ball hits the bat, there’s not really much else you can do. I don’t think any of us are going to waver. I think that we have a good plan as a team. I think K-Long [hitting coach Kevin Long] is pretty confident in what we have going on. We’ve just got to hope that ball starts to find the grass a little bit more.”