If you’re a normal person who prefers your baseball played at the crack of dawn in your time zone, I have spectacular news, very specific to your interests: The 2018 MLB Japan All-Star Series is underway, with a squadron of MLB stars dispatched overseas to take on the best players in Japan. Among them are Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana, as well as a litany of other stars, some of whom are multitasking by playing in Japan while simultaneously winning NL Rookie of the Year.
While playing overseas has been good for certain former Phillies, the two current Phillies representatives are not among the MLB team’s offensive leaders yet, though each have connected on home runs that would make their countrymen proud. And the important thing is, of course, that baseball is happening, even if we can’t see it.
The first game after the MLB team’s arrival was an introductory scrap with the Yomiuri Giants, and MLB manager Don Mattingly deployed his on-base machine Santana in the lead off spot. Santana delivered, once, with a soft line drive single. Then he struck out three times. Hoskins saw some late action pinch hitting for Yadier Molina and managed to work a walk somewhere between his two at-bats, and the MLB team rode Molina and Juan Soto’s RBI doubling, as well as J.T. Realmuto’s late home run, to a 9-6 victory.
In the first of their six scheduled games against Samurai Japan, Hoskins DH’d again and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a pair of strikeouts while facing 2018 NPB all-star and 2008 Japan Series MVP Takayuki Kishi. Santana had the big blow, a three-run jack that scored Hoskins and Amed Rosario and gave his team a 4-1 lead they would eventually lose, thanks to a gamy-tying, bases-clearing double by Japan’s Shogo Akiyama. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the MLB team watched helplessly as Padres hurler Kirby Yates, who is not adapting well to pitching upside down over there, gave up a walk-off three-run shot to Yuki Yanagita.
Hoskins pinch hit for Yadier Molina in game two, fouling out and flying out as the MLB team tried to scramble back into the game from eight runs down (they lost, 12-6). Santana went 0-for-2 in this one as well, striking out after Rosario and Molina had started the game with a pair of singles, and grounding into a double play after Molina got punched by a Naoyuki Uwasawa pitch in the fourth.
The MLB all-stars eked out a 7-3 win in game three, using the sort of brute offense in which you would expect no Phillies to be involved, and you would be right. Facing starter Shinsaburo Tawata, a teammate of Yusei Kikuchi’s on the Seibu Lions, it took a four-run fifth for the Americans to break a 1-1 tie, ignited by a Whit Merrifield bunt single and a home run from Molina. Hoskins rode the bench again in this one, while Santana stayed in the background, going 1-for-5 with a hard single to right that kept the fourth inning rally alive after holding the bat for a strike ‘um out, throw ‘um out double play in the first.
Molina, it must sadly be noted, is absolutely feasting on the pitching over there, going 7-for-11 vs. Samurai Japan and 2-for-2 with a double in the first game vs. the Giants. Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna are out there, too, because the Phillies are only at the beginning of never being able to escape them. The recently determined NL Rookie of the Year, Acuna has been mostly quiet at the plate, going 2-for-5 against the Giants but not managing much of a peep against the Japanese all-stars. Soto, on the other hand, is averaging only about one hit per game, but it’s typically the hit that matters: he’s got three doubles and two homers in five games, including an RBI double in today’s game.
After a day off on Monday, the teams were back at it this morning, and it was Hoskins who opened the scoring, crushing a Daichi Ohsera offering in the second inning to give the U.S. an early 1-0 lead. They didn’t hold on—Kirby Yates once more couldn’t hold the save in a ninth that saw him picked apart by singles, walks, bunts, and a passed ball. The U.S. dropped the fourth game of the series, 5-3, as the sun rose over a Philadelphia in which we are still stabbing each other over the Eagles’ Sunday night loss.
The U.S. and Japan teams square off two more times before the series is over: Wednesday at 5:00 a.m. our time, and Thursday at 4 a.m.; a much more reasonable hour so that people have some time left in their day to accomplish things.