PHILADELPHIA >> In the days leading up the All-Star break, Rhys Hoskins told all assembled questioners how excited he was to be selected to participate in that made-for-ESPN wonder, the MLB Home Run Derby.
And while some critics and past participants might have called the competition into question for having an after-effect on players’ swings, Hoskins quickly shrugged off that notion and said he was certain it wouldn’t impact his offensive game.
He is finding out now how wrong that was, if only in a good way.
“I think it kind of forced me to be aggressive to the pull side in the derby,” Hoskins said Wednesday, after drilling his fourth home run in the six games since he posted an outstanding performance at the exhibition Derby.
“I hadn’t done that very well this year,” Hoskins continued. “For whatever reason I’ve been a little more passive on the inner-half of the plate. In the derby I was able to pull balls more true and keep the ball a lot straighter instead of hooking the ball. It seems to be carrying over.”
Hoskins’ home run Wednesday came in the first inning, wiping out an early Dodgers lead off Jake Arrieta.
Of Hoskins’ 18 home runs on the season, 14 of them have either tied games or given the Phillies a lead.
Hoskins said his performance at the All-Star festivities didn’t alter his swing, just his attitude. He feels it was a welcome bolt of confidence.
“I think when you see yourself pull the ball as true as I was able to in the derby, it’s just kind of a reminder,” Hoskins said. “We all need to be reminded sometimes of the ability that we have.”
Perhaps owing to the 16-inning marathon for the second game of the series, Chase Utley started in his final (and 766th career) regular-season game at Citizens Bank Park, batting sixth and going oh-for-3. But it ended in an emotional moment. Urged on by Phillies’ owner John Middleton, Utley came out of the Dodgers dugout after the game and doffed his cap to various sections of the stadium while the fans stood and cheered.
“Pretty surreal, the past three games,” Utley said. “As I’ve said over and over again, I can’t thank the fans enough for the support they’ve shown me, not only this series ... (but all) I’ve played here in Philadelphia. One thing I am happy about is that I had the opportunity to thank them in person.
“I’ve been thinking about (this trip) for a while now. A lot of great memories, a lot of great relationships here. It was a fun ride, that’s for sure.”
NOTES >> Phillies have won eight of their last 10 games and five straight series at home. ... Lefty Ranger Suarez, the top prospect that almost went to Baltimore in a Manny Machado bid, gets promoted and will start for the Phillies Thursday in Cincinnati against Tyler Mahle and the Reds.