Series Preview: Phillies welcome Rhys Hoskins, Brewers to end homestand

Phillies Rhys hoskins
Milwaukee Brewers’ Rhys Hoskins yells toward New York Mets’ Jeff McNeil as benches cleared during the eighth inning of a baseball game Friday, March 29, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Philadelphia Phillies will host old friend Rhys Hoskins and the Milwaukee Brewers for a start-of-the-week series. It will be the first meeting of 2024 between the two teams and a homecoming for the veteran first baseman.

Phillies face final homestand before flying across the pond

With the London series against the New York Mets on the horizon, there’s plenty of buzz for the Phillies’ trip overseas. But before they hop on their international flight, they’ll have one more three-game home series to complete. The Phillies dropped their last game to the St. Louis Cardinals but still already had the series win before the finale. At 41-19, the Fightins still sit atop the National League standings by multiple games.

The Brewers, similarly, have a comfortable lead in their division. Their 36-23 record has them in the top spot of the NL Central. Even after trading Corbin Burnes, they’re still a strong pitching team. The franchise hopes that young newcomers Jackson Chourio, Brice Turang, Sal Frelick, and Joey Ortiz can grow into big-time players around veterans like Hoskins, Christian Yelich, Willy Adames, and William Contreras, who has become one of the very best hitters at the catcher spot.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Edmundo Sosa loses his bat after striking out during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Saturday, June 1, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Yelich, too, has been stellar this season, approaching his former MVP form. His .957 OPS isn’t at the level it was when he won MVP and was a runner-up all those years ago but his 171 OPS+ fits right at home with the 164 OPS+ in his MVP season and 179 OPS+ in his runner-up campaign. He has particularly dominated lefties this season with a 1.106 OPS, though in a much lower sample than against righties (41 plate appearances vs. LHP, 102 vs. RHP).

The first pitches are scheduled for 6:40 P.M. on Monday and Tuesday and 4:05 P.M. on Wednesday (all times EDT).

Probable starting pitchers

There’s no official word yet on who the Brewers plan to start for this series, though the Phillies will not see ace starter Freddy Peralta, who started the final game of Milwaukee’s previous series. Rookie Robert Gasser, who has posted a 2.57 ERA in five starts since being called up in the middle of May, started the game before him, so Philly will be getting the easier portions of Milwaukee’s rotation.

Zack Wheeler will start tonight’s game. He pitched a shutout across six innings his last time out, lowering his ERA on the season to 2.32. Since allowing six runs to the Miami Marlins in a start midway through May, he has recorded 20 strikeouts and allowed just two runs in 20.1 innings.

Cristopher Sanchez is expected the ball in the second game. He’s on a tear of his own, having not allowed a home run in all of May and continuing to ruin hitters’ chances to bat with his nasty changeup. No other pitcher has thrown 300 of those so far this season and gotten a whiff 42 percent of the time when a batter swings.

Philadelphia Phillies starter Cristopher Sanchez pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, July 6, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Aaron Nola is penciled in to finish the series on Wednesday in search of his fifth straight quality start, a feat he hasn’t pulled off since 2019. Despite his rates of strikeouts and walks trending in the wrong directions, his 1.03 WHIP is spectacular and the home runs that he allows haven’t led to immediate blow-ups. Progress!

Welcome back, Rhys

The forecast at Citizens Bank Park over the next few days calls for Rhys Lightning.

Hoskins missed over two weeks with a hamstring injury but was activated a few days ago, putting him in line to play ball against the Phillies for the first time in his life. While he will surely be looking to get his Brewers going in what will be a big test for the playoff hopefuls, he will also be saying hello to a ton of old friends and receiving a warm welcome back.

Hoskins will surely say hello to his former teammates before the game and take in the view of the ballpark he called home for seven years. From finishing fourth in 2017 NL Rookie of the Year voting in just 50 games to taking Jacob Rhame deep and taunting him and the New York Mets with a slow jog around the bases to bat spike in the playoffs against the Atlanta Braves and everything in between — plus his great charitable work throughout his tenure — Hoskins left a big mark on Philadelphia.

Phillies Rhys hoskins
Philadelphia Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins hits a home run during the fifth inning in Game 3 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

While the specific vision of this Phillies team may not have been in place when Hoskins made it to the big leagues, he was the first piece among position players. He and Aaron Nola put up strong numbers for uninspiring teams before the likes of Bryce Harper, Wheeler, J.T. Realmuto and more joined the team to make it a World Series contender. Hoskins did plenty of the heavy lifting that allowed him to leave the team in better shape than he left it.

In 165 plate appearances over 40 games this season, Hoskins has a slash line of .239/.339/.465, 34 hits, 27 RBI (tied for third-most on the team with Yelich), 18 walks, 17 runs, and nine home runs (tied for the most on the team with Adames). Despite missing an entire season due to his ACL tear, he’s still mashing, providing the Brewers with a big bat in the middle of their batting order.

Hoskins said earlier this season that he anticipates getting booed if he helps the Brewers beat the Phillies. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen. But what is certain to happen is this: as Dan Baker says his name over the sound system again, his former teammates and fans at The Bank will applaud and cheer loudly.

Injury updates

In the Phillies’ last game, Brandon Marsh rounded second base and immediately retreated back, calling for a trainer. While he was able to leave the field under his own power, he was clearly in pain. The team announced that he strained his right hamstring.

Expect Cristian Pache or Whit Merrifield — him in particular, as Rob Thomson said that he wants to get him more playing time so he can get going — in left field until Marsh can return. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Phillies to bring up David Dahl, a 30-year-old with MLB experience who has a 1.076 OPS in 43 games at the Triple-A level this season. Especially because they can bring extra players with them to London and have 27-man active rosters, it wouldn’t hurt to see what Dahl can do.

Kody Clemens is considered day-to-day after experiencing back spasms and being scratched from the lineup. Edmundo Sosa, who is dealing with a hamstring issue, is also considered day-to-day.

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II