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March 29, 2019

New-look Phillies have swag, confidence and choreographed celebrations

It's only been one game, but it's pretty clear that the 2019 Phillies have already selected their motto for the 2019 season. 

"Pick your poison."

With potent bats waiting to strike from the leadoff spot through the 8-hole, for the first time in years there truly is no easy out on the Phillies. Rhys Hoskins, who blasted his first career grand slam in Thursday's 10-4 win over the Braves, says he wouldn't know what to do if he was a manager either. His best advice to other teams: "flip a coin."

"It's scary right?" Hoskins said. "It's scary good. There's just no fresh air for the opposing pitcher. They decided to walk Bryce [Harper] tonight... we saw it the whole game, from everyone in the lineup. I think everybody had great at-bats. It's pretty contagious."

With two men on in the seventh inning and Harper in the batter's box, the Braves elected load the bases and take their chances with Hoskins. Clearly in hindsight that was the wrong choice. 

"The guys we have in the lineup, it's pretty unbelievable," Harper, who went 0-for-3 with a walk on Opening Day, said. "I walk right there and Rhys hits the homer — that's what it's all about.

"I was fired up. We talked about it all spring long. If I walk, the guy behind me is doing damage."

It seems apparent that quite often, someone will have the chance to drive in the big run. And often times, it will be Hoskins. Harper says he can't remember ever being in Hoskins shoes, as the 26-year-old has been the centerpiece of offenses since he was a 19-year-old rookie. But with J.T. Realmuto behind Hoskins, and Odubel Herrera behind him, the same scenario will happen again and again this season.

"It's exciting," Hoskins, who just fell shy of 100 RBI last season said. "I get a chance to do my job, what I think my job is hitting in the middle of the lineup, and that's driving in runs. There's a little bit of a pride factor, that someone gets walked in front of you because they want to face you. You want to make them wish they didn't... In those situations you don't have to try and do too much because of the adrenaline."

"I still feel like I am going to get pitches to hit because of who is hitting behind me and who is hitting behind him."

If it sounds like the Phillies have a little swag, it's because they do. Dances and handshakes in the outfield after the win remind many of the flamboyant Eagles of 2017, or even the confident Sixers currently looking to make a deep playoff run. 

It's a Philly thing now.

"I saw it on a video game this offseason," Harper said of the celebration he performed with teammates after the win. "I talked to Cutch [Andrew McCutchen] about it and he said, 'Yeah, that will be great.' Whoever is the 'player of the game' in the outfield, he will have the rock and try and score."

The 2019 Phillies are a new breed. They are good, and they know it. They just want to be great.

"It feels great," Hoskins said. "I think everybody wants to have a target on their back and now we do, with the additions that were made, with four previous All Stars, we got a lot better. It's just a glimpse. ... it's going to be fun to have a target on our backs. The guys in that room are really going to cherish that.

"Some of my handshakes have to get ironed out, I have to make sure I remember them, I have a lot of new teammates but the more handshakes we can do the better."

The Phils appear poised to become a team that Philadelphians will love and rivals will hate. And that's just what this city thrives on.

"The whole team was pretty pumped and stoked about what was happening in the stands," Harper said. "What a fan base, what a crowd. We have to keep that up for 162 games."

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