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Juggernaut Lehigh Valley gives poor Phillies fans hope

Downtrodden Philadelphia Phillies fans might finally have something to look forward to in the next couple seasons.

The Phillies have a mother lode of talent on their Triple-A Lehigh Valley roster, and it was on display Tuesday at Coca-Cola Field.

Lehigh Valley fell behind to the Buffalo Bisons, 6-1, in the first inning. No problem for the winningest team in all of Triple-A baseball.

“When a team’s got a little bit of confidence, I don’t think any lead is insurmountable,” said Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan.

The Iron Pigs slugged their way to 16 hits, including four homers and five doubles, and defeated the Bisons, 9-7.

It was Buffalo’s 10th straight loss this season to Lehigh Valley (43-21). The IronPigs lead the Herd (32-30) by 10 games in the International League North Division.

The Phillies are on their way to a sixth straight non-playoff season. They own the major league’s worst record of 21-41.

But Philadelphia has drafted well in recent years and then stockpiled more talented prospects with the 2015 trades of all-star pitcher Cole Hamels to Texas and ace reliever Ken Giles to Houston.

Lehigh Valley has six players rated among the top 10 prospects in the Phillies’ organization, by one rating service or another.

“It bodes well for the organization and our team,” Wathan said.

Sluggers Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins became known as the “Bash Brothers” at Double-A Reading last year by ranking first and second in all of minor league baseball in homers with 40 and 38, respectively. This year they’re tied for the IL lead in homers with 14 apiece.

Cozens is a 6-foot-6, 245-pounder who turned down a football scholarship to the University of Arizona to sign with the Phillies. Hoskins, 6-4 and 245, leads the IL in RBIs (49) and slugging (.591).

“It’s fun to watch them get better,” Wathan said. “Dylan had a terrible month of April but he was able to make some adjustments. He’s got his average up to .252 and he hit .140 in April. His power numbers are up and he’s doing well against left-handed pitching.”

Catcher Jorge Alfaro, 6-2 and 236, showed off his big-league arm Tuesday by throwing out two Bisons runners at second base. He also hit a homer to dead center among his three hits.

Centerfielder Nick Williams, another top-10 prospect, stands third in the IL with 13 HRs and is hitting .282. Shortstop J.P. Crawford, the No. 4-rated prospect in all of baseball after last season, is a defensive stud but is batting just .194. Roman Quinn, hitting .274, may be the fastest player in the IL. Maybe someday soon he can be at the top of the Phillies order setting the table for the Bash Brothers.

Here’s another example of how loaded the IronPigs are: Outfielder Brock Stassi was the Eastern League MVP in 2015, hit .286 in Triple-A the last three months last year and spent 36 games with the Phillies this season. He just got sent down and he’s batting eighth. He homered Tuesday, too.

Buffalo stands 31-20 against the rest of the IL but fell to 1-10 against Lehigh Valley. The Iron Pigs are 29-8 since May 7. The lead the IL in homers with 72 in 64 games.

The one glimmer of good news for the Bisons after Tuesday’s loss is they now have only two games left this season against the mighty IronPigs.

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