Hot-hitting Joseph bolstering shot with Phils

Hot-hitting Joseph bolstering shot with Phils

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph has heard that these final couple of months are huge for him. He has a chance to earn a job in 2017 with a strong finish in 2016.

Joseph continued to strengthen his case Tuesday night in a 2-1 loss in 10 innings to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. He went 2-for-3, crushing a game-tying home run into the second deck in left field in the fourth. He is hitting .500 (14-for-28) with two doubles, five home runs and eight RBIs in his last nine games.

"Every game for everybody in this clubhouse is an opportunity to showcase yourself and keep your job and give yourself an opportunity to be in the lineup the next day," Joseph said. "That's the way I try to approach every day."

Joseph has homered 13 times in his first 49 games. Only four other Phillies have homered 11 or more times in their first 49 career games: Ron Jones (1988-90), Don Hurst (1928), Darin Ruf (2012-13) and Buzz Arlett (1931).

Joseph has also walked four times in his previous eight games after walking three times in his first 41, but that is just a coincidence.

"I don't ever try to walk," Joseph said. "I'm up there to hit every pitch of every at-bat. If you're up there to take and work a walk, then I don't really know why you would hit. It doesn't make any sense to me. Every time I step in the box, I want to hit. Every pitch that's thrown, I'm trying to hit it. I think I've just been better at taking those pitches that are just off the plate, those borderline pitches I haven't swung at."

But whatever the reasons for his impressive performance recently, Joseph has skyrocketed to the top of the rookie stat sheet. He is tied for third among rookies in home runs. He is second behind Colorado's Trevor Story with a .546 slugging percentage (minimum 100 plate appearances).

Joseph is making an argument to be the Phillies' first baseman in 2017.

Philadelphia will need one. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard will not return in 2017 as the organization will exercise the $10 million buyout on his $25 million club option. The free-agent crop includes Edwin Encarnacion, who has mostly been a designated hitter this season with Toronto; Brandon Moss; Adam Lind; and James Loney. Joseph could be a good fit to a young team on the rise.

"Without question," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said, asked if Joseph is earning more playing time at first base.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.