Outfielder's catch begins 7-4-3 trifecta, confirmed by review
By Ben Harris
PHILADELPHIA -- As if Rhys Hoskins hasn't done enough offensively to start his historic career, his defense ignited a game-turning triple play in the fifth inning of Sunday's 6-3 win over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park.
With runners on first and second, Hoskins broke in hard on a Javier Baez liner to left, sliding to make the catch just inches above the grass before fumbling the ball on the transfer. Both Cubs runners -- Anthony Rizzo from second and Tommy La Stella from first -- had reacted to the sinking, top-spinning liner and broke for the next base. Hoskins picked up the ball and fired it to Cesar Hernandez at second, and Hernandez then relayed the ball to first, completing the Phils' first triple play since Aug. 7, 2016, against the Padres.
"I can't believe that happened," Phillies starter Nick Pivetta said of the play behind him. "If there's one way I was getting out of that inning, that's what was going to happen. Sometimes the baseball gods are just in your favor."
The triple play proved a positive catalyst in a number of ways. First, it allowed Pivetta -- who entered the game with the highest ERA in August (14.49) among any starting pitcher with at least five innings pitched -- to squash the rally and escape the fifth inning unscathed, saving an already-taxed bullpen. Philadelphia's relievers had thrown the second-most innings (50 1/3) in the past two weeks entering play Sunday, with a 6.22 ERA, sixth highest in that span.
Second, it flipped the momentum from the Cubs padding their 3-0 lead to the Phillies riding a wave of emotion and taking a 5-3 lead the following inning. And that reversed momentum was the dry kindling and flint rock that sparked a series win over the defending champs, just the Phils' third series win this season against a ballclub with a winning record.
"It got the players' energy up," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
Pivetta called it a "huge momentum boost."
"It's such a tough read," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Had he gone halfway and he caught it on a bounce, he might've thrown him out a third. It's such a tweener play. Once he rolls over, we couldn't tell anything. ... Baserunners have to advance at their own risk. It was an extremely strange play."
For Hoskins, who is traditionally a first baseman, the sliding play was one of the best he's made in his 17 big league games in the outfield.
"I did know I caught it," Hoskins said. "I was just hoping that because it was kind of an awkward angle, especially on the replay, that they weren't going to have enough to overturn it."
It was the first triple play of his baseball career.
"Of course, the one that I am, I'm in the outfield instead of first base, where it usually happens," Hoskins said.
Maddon couldn't ignore well-rounded contributions, as Hoskins added his 11th homer in 18 games, an MLB record dating back to at least 1913.
"He beats you with the bat, he beats you with the glove," Maddon said.
Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia and covered the Phillies on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.