Time to unearth an amazing prediction Rhys Hoskins made four months ago originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
This story has been buried in my tape recorder for four months. Now, with the Phillies looking to nail down their first postseason berth in a decade, feels like a good time to tell it.
Back on the final weekend of May, the Phillies were near the end of a dreadful road trip.
Four hours before the final game of the trip, Rhys Hoskins was out on the field, taking early batting practice at Citi Field in New York.
After he was done taking early BP, I approached him on the field to take his temperature about the team.
"The time is now," he said, explaining why he was on the field early, both for himself and the team.
The Phils were five games under .500 and the clubhouse was tighter than a car spring.
"Look," Hoskins said. "It's pretty obvious there's some frustration within our group right now. We're not ourselves as an offense and we know it. We're having real conversations about it in there. We're beating ourselves up. We're built to hit and we're not. And the frustration builds up when we pitch well and don't hit, or hit well and don't pitch, or don't catch the ball.
"Everyone's pride takes a hit when you lose and we've had a lot of tough losses. But that doesn't mean our confidence is lost by any means. All we have to do to remain confident is look at the lineup card and look at the track records in that room.
"We haven't gotten into a rhythm but there will come a time when we get into a rhythm ..."
I planned to use Hoskins' comments in a story that night or the next day or the day after that, but the tobacco juice hit the fan and other things got in the way. Namely, a few hours after I spoke with Hoskins, the Phils blew another late lead and lost on a walk-off homer to the Mets. That concluded a 2-5 road trip in which the defense was awful and the bullpen couldn't hold leads. The Phils were 21-27, on their way to a couple more losses and a 21-29 low point, and experienced nostrils were beginning to smell a managerial change, which came a few days later when Joe Girardi was let go and Rob Thomson took over.
With other matters taking priority, the Hoskins interview remained buried in the tape recorder, but I knew it was there.
So why bring it out now?
Because the Phillies on Tuesday night will begin a final 10-game sprint that will determine if they make the playoffs.
Because back at the end of May, when Hoskins was talking after early BP in Citi Field, they didn't look like a team that could sniff the playoffs.
But then June arrived and they began to play better.
A lot better.
June ended up being the month that saved the Phillies' season.
And Hoskins predicted it would happen.
It's all in the tape recorder.
Back on that late-May day in Citi Field, when things were bleak for the Phillies, he said this:
"There's going to be a time where we catch that rhythm and it's going to look like it's supposed to, like everybody thought it would look like, and we're going to win 12 of 13. Then we're going to win five in a row. Then we're going to win seven out of 10. Then all of a sudden ..."
"How many games are there in a month, 28?" he asked.
"You know a 20-8 month is coming," he said.
The Phillies went 19-8 in June.
Not a bad crystal ball, Mr. Hoskins.
They also won their first game in July, so there's your 20-8 run.
But there was more, some he got right, some he didn't.
"There's going to be a time when 12 carries us," Hoskins said, referring to Kyle Schwarber.
Schwarber did carry the Phillies in June. He was NL Player of the Month with 12 homers and 27 RBIs.
It was about a month ago, the Phillies by then had saved their season and played themselves into playoff consideration, when Hoskins asked if I remembered what he said that day several months earlier in Citi Field, when the losses were piling up and nobody was feeling particularly good about the team.
Got it right here, I said, holding up my tape recorder.
I transcribed the interview a few days ago and read some of it back to Hoskins. The 20-8 month prediction was ...
"Amazing," Hoskins said with a laugh.
What prompted you to say that?
"I was just confident in our group," he said. "There was too much track record. It was all about track record.
"We had a really tough schedule early and we played a lot of clunkers. But I knew the talent. I really believed we'd find a rhythm. We hadn't really had even two guys in the lineup get going at the same time. I knew if we could get two guys going and contributions here and there from others, we'd have a pretty good chance. Schwarber was player of the month and we started putting guys on base."
Hoskins was the other guy who got hot in June. He hit .306 with seven homers, 15 RBIs and a 1.026 OPS. He was the perfect complement to Schwarber at the top of the order. And, now, with 10 games to go in the regular season and a playoff berth there for the taking, Hoskins is getting hot again. He has five doubles and a homer in his last four games. This is his sixth season here. He's never played in a postseason game and making it …
"Would mean the world to me," he said a few days ago.
Since the start of June, the Phils have one of the best records in baseball at 62-40. Not only did the offense pick up, but so, too, did the starting pitching, the bullpen and the defense. Everything. The Phils' rise coincided with Thomson taking over as skipper.
"It would be hard to say it didn't," Hoskins said when asked if the managerial change helped get the team going. "I still would have thought we had a run in us, regardless of who the manager was. But just a change in voice can sometimes do wonders. There's also the shock to your system and your pride.
"At the end of the day, we're on the field. A lack of performance from us led to the switch. As a group, we felt a lot of the responsibility for that."
Thomson still wears an interim label. He deserves to lose the label later this fall.
Does Hoskins agree that Thomson deserves the job?
"If I was running the team, yeah," he said. "There's such a quiet confidence about him. You really see it with the younger guys and the whole group, for that matter. It's allowed us to go play. I think you can see it in the quality of baseball. We've had our clunkers, yeah, but we've found a way to stay in games. I know I've been part of games that we've won that we would not have won in the past. I think that goes back to the confidence he's instilled in us as a group."
That confidence started with a 19-8 run in the month of June, a performance no one saw coming.
Except Rhys Hoskins.