PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Rhys Hoskins has worn a two-sided flap helmet ever since he broke his jaw by fouling a pitch off his face.
Any chance the Philadelphia Phillies slugger keeps it on all season?
You bet, Hoskins says. His numbers have been jaw-dropping in the three weeks since he returned, and he’s superstitious enough not to mess with a good thing.
“I was able to step back, simplify things, and it’s going well,” Hoskins said.
Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning to win his 10th game of the season, Hoskins homered again and the Philadelphia Phillies started a pivotal division series by beating the Washington Nationals 4-3 on Thursday night.
Hoskins hit a two-run shot in the seventh inning for his 13th home run of the year and a 4-1 lead that propelled the Phillies within two games of idle Atlanta for first place the NL East. The Phillies took two of three last weekend in Washington, and both teams entered this four-game set within striking distance of the Braves.
“We keep inching closer to the Braves, and it’s a good division,” Nola said. “I think it’s going to be a battle to the end.”
Nola, who beat the Nationals in his last outing, pitched again like an All-Star and hasn’t lost in six turns since May 26. Nola (10-2) struck out eight and walked only two over 114 pitches and 7 2/3 sensational innings. He has won seven straight decisions at home dating to last season.
“I think it’s everything. The fans, the mound,” Nola said. “It just feels good.”
Nola got Bryce Harper swinging to open the game and fanned Trea Turner with runners on the corners to end the sixth. Washington pinch-hitter Brian Goodwin went down looking to end the seventh, Nola’s seventh strikeout of the game. Harper struck out swinging again in the eighth.
Adam Morgan relieved Nola and retired the last batter in the eighth. Tommy Hunter allowed two runs in the ninth on an RBI single by Turner and an RBI double by Michael A. Taylor, before Seranthony Dominguez got the final two outs for his sixth save.
Pedro Severino had an RBI double in the second for a 1-0 lead and the first run for the Nationals since Sunday. They were outscored 12-0 in a two-game set at Toronto earlier this week.
“We’re going to snap out of this. We really are,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We had a couple of chances to score some runs. We couldn’t do it.”
The Phillies tied the game in the second when the center fielder Taylor overran Jorge Alfaro’s single up the middle. That allowed Maikel Franco to score, and Scott Kingery made it 2-1 on a sacrifice fly off Nationals starter Tanner Roark (3-9) in the third.
Roark struck out five while allowing only one earned run over six innings for the Nationals, who fell to 4-12 since June 9.
Franco had two doubles and Hoskins hit one for a Phillies team that followed two straight losses to the New York Yankees with its second straight victory.
Hoskins, who became the fastest Phillie on Wednesday to reach 30 career homers, in 119 games played, continued his leadership of the lineup since he was reinstated from the disabled list on June 9. The Phillies have won 11 of 17 since he returned and are 41-29 overall in games Hoskins has played.
Hoskins ate a burger this week for the first time since he was hurt in late May. He’s feasted on the opposition all month.
“The thing that stands out the most to be will always be how he manages an at-bat for a young player,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “The home runs are impressive. There’s no question about it. The power production is impressive.”
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (shoulder) could throw a bullpen session over the weekend. He played catch before Thursday’s game. … 3B Ryan Zimmerman (back) could begin a rehab assignment next week.
Phillies: RHP Jerad Eickhoff (nerve) threw a bullpen session and will head to Florida for live batting practice. … RHP Pat Neshek (shoulder), who has not pitched yet this season, will make a rehab outing Friday at Double-A Reading.
Nationals: RHP Erick Fedde (0-3, 5.32 ERA) makes his second straight start against the Phillies.
Phillies: RHP Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.06 ERA) goes for his first career win against the Nationals in three career starts.
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