Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Franco And Phillies End The Losing Streak!

GAME RECAP: Phillies Shock Reds 5-4

Darin Ruf took advantage of a rare opportunity Tuesday night when he singled to right field to score Odubel Herrera from third base in a 5-4 walk-off victory over the Reds at Citizens Bank Park. It snapped the Phillies' seven-game losing streak, which was the organization's longest since an eight-game streak July 20-28, 2013. "We've been battling for a while now," said Ruf, who has just four plate appearances since May 24. "It just seemed like for the last week and a half or so, we were just missing that big hit." Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto had not pitched since May 19 because of a sore elbow, but he pitched well in his return. He allowed five hits, two runs (one earned run) and struck out four in six innings. He left with a 4-2 lead, but Maikel Franco's two-run homer in the eighth against Jumbo Diaz tied the game. "He was really, really good," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Cueto. "My guess is he's going to continue to feel good. I don't suspect there being any lingering issues after today's game."

  • Phillies second baseman Chase Utley's batting average dropped to .099 on May 8, and it has been a slow climb since. But he went 3-for-4 with a home run Tuesday to raise his batting average to .207, his highest average of the season. "Obviously, the first month didn't go as planned," Utley said. "But you can't really change that. You've got to continue to move forward. The last month or so has been a little better. You just try to build on it."
  • Reds left fielder Marlon Byrd was hit on the right arm by an O'Sullivan pitch leading off the top of the sixth inning. Byrd was out of the game in the seventh to get X-rays on his right wrist, which revealed a fracture. It is not known how long he might be out of action. "We're going to wait until we hear from the doctors and they read the X-rays and they make that decision," Price said. "I would not anticipate having him available, not in this series, and there's a possibility he could be DL'd here, too."
  • Papelbon has struck out 27 of the 83 batters (32.5 percent strikeout rate) he has faced this season. It is his highest strikeout rate since 2011, when he struck out 34.1 percent of the batters he faced while with Boston.
  • With two outs in the top of the second inning, Hamilton bunted to the left side and was called out at first base after appearing to beat Franco's throw. The Reds challenged umpire Dan Bellino's call, and it took only 42 seconds for it to be overturned upon replay review. Hamilton was credited with a single but soon ended the inning anyway when he was caught stealing.
  • "You're lucky you're getting to pinch-hit for me." -- Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, according to Ruf. Papelbon stood in the on-deck circle in the bottom of the ninth inning before manager Ryne Sandberg sent Ruf to the plate instead.

Left-hander Cole Hamels has had an incredible career against the Reds. He is 10-0 with a 1.36 ERA in 13 career starts against Cincinnati, which includes a shutout in Game 3 of the 2010 National League Division Series. Hamels has not allowed more than six hits or three runs in any start against the Reds. Mike Leake will start the second game of the series for the Reds, with a 7:05 p.m. ET first pitch scheduled on Wednesday. Leake has struggled lately and is 0-3 with a 12.86 ERA his last three starts with 20 earned runs and 27 hits, including six homers, over 14 innings. His track record vs. the Phillies isn't strong either. He is 1-3 with a 7.41 ERA in six starts lifetime vs. Philadelphia.


Ruf Gets The Pie – The opportunities have been few and far between for Phillies outfielder Darin Ruf, but he took advantage Tuesday. He hit a 1-1 fastball to right field in the bottom of the ninth inning against Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani to score the winning run in a 5-4 victory. It was the first walk-off hit of Ruf's big league career. "He was trying to come in all three times, I think," said Ruf, who pinch-hit for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. "The first one he missed away. The second one I just missed. The third one was pretty much the same as the second one. I just tried to stay a little shorter [with my swing] and use the middle of the field. Just trying to barrel it up, or get jammed and break my bat, like I did." It was Ruf's fourth plate appearance since May 24. His playing time has dwindled recently, especially with Cody Asche back in the big leagues and playing every day in left field. That is a spot where Ruf had played occasionally, but with Asche in left, Ryan Howard at first base and the Phillies uninterested in Ruf in right, playing time is expected to remain limited. "That's where he's settled into right now," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said about Ruf's role on the team as a part-time player. "The potential is there. I had a lot of confidence in that spot with him, and he came up big. But I still view him as a guy that can swing the bat from the right side." Ruf is hitting .225 (20-for-89) with six doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs and a .669 OPS in 37 games. He had been 1-for-10 as a pinch-hitter this season, and .091 (3-for-33) as a pinch-hitter in his career. "It definitely feels good," Ruf said about coming through with a clutch hit. "I haven't had the best numbers pinch-hitting. I feel like I've had some good at-bats in some situations, but it was good to be there in that situation and still have the confidence from the manager and from myself to be able to get the job done."

Franco Comes Through Under Pressure – The Phillies knew a game-changing hit had to come sooner or later. They just didn't know from whom it would come. In the midst of an 11-game slump, rookie third baseman Maikel Franco seemed as unlikely a candidate as any. The 22-year-old Dominican entered play Tuesday 5-for-42 since May 20 and started Tuesday's 5-4 win by reaching base on errors in back-to-back at-bats, dropping his batting average below .200. It didn't stay there for long. Franco laced a double in the sixth inning to break his seven-game streak without an extra-base hit, but he was stranded at second by a Cody Asche strikeout and an Odubel Herrera groundout. But his biggest contribution to the game came two innings later. Franco came to the plate with two outs and a runner on second base with his team trailing by two. Reds pitcher Jumbo Diaz slung an 85-mph slider over the plate, and Franco turned on it. Showing shades of Sammy Sosa, Franco hopped a couple of times and started running the bases. There was no doubt in his mind he had tied the game up. "When I hit it, I knew the ball was gone because I hit the ball good," Franco said. "It got a good fly, and I knew the ball was gone." That home run energized the team. The Phillies came into Tuesday's game with one hit in their past 28 opportunities with runners in scoring position, and that one hit didn't even plate a runner. Franco's two-run job, along with Darin Ruf's pinch-hit walk-off single, broke the Phillies out of not only that funk, but a seven-game losing streak that was the team's longest of the season. Despite the importance of his hit, Ruf acknowledged that it was Franco's home run that even made his walk-off possible, not just in terms of the score, but in terms of morale. "We knew a big hit would come at some point for us," Ruf said. "For him to do it, it was just electric in the dugout." Franco has now played 17 games this season since his mid-May callup. In games in which he has recorded a hit, the Phillies are 5-4. In games in which Franco has gone hitless, the Phillies are 2-6. To manager Ryne Sandberg, Franco's night was different from his 16 other 2015 outings for one reason: It was better. "I thought he looked as good tonight as he has since he's been here," Sandberg said. "I think it started with that double down the line. He really kept his front shoulder in there and reacted to a pitch aggressively. Once again, I think he built on that hit being able to come up and have the confidence to be able to hit the big two-run home run."

Slowly Rising – Chase Utley finally has his head above the Mendoza line. It has been a long climb since his batting average dropped to .099 on May 8, which was the lowest batting average among qualified hitters through a team's first 30 games since 1914. But Utley went 3-for-4 with a home run in Tuesday night's 5-4 victory over the Reds at Citizens Bank Park to raise his average to .207. It was the first time his batting average had hit .200 since April 14. "Obviously the first month didn't go as planned," Utley said. "But you can't really change that. You've got to continue to move forward. The last month or so has been a little better. You just try to build on it." Utley has hit .347 (25-for-73) with six doubles, one triple, one home run, eight RBIs and an .908 OPS in 22 games since May 8. Perhaps Utley's luck has finally turned in his favor. His batting average on balls in play had been .079 through May 8, which was easily the worst BABIP in baseball. But his .393 BABIP since seems to be evening things out. "It became a little frustrating at times," Utley said, "because you know you're putting some decent at-bats together hitting balls, maybe not perfect, but well enough where you feel like you may deserve a hit here and there. For whatever reason, they weren't really falling. You try not to change too much, but mentally it can be tough." Utley started Tuesday's game with a bunt single down the third-base line. Cincinnati had employed the defensive shift with Reds third baseman Todd Frazier essentially playing shortstop. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg had been begging his hitters to drop a ball down the line to beat the shift, and Utley finally did it. "I figured I'd try it," he said. "I think over the course of a year, guys should try it. Whether it works out or not, at least it'll get the defense thinking a little bit." Utley singled to left in the third before homering in the sixth. It was his first homer since May 1 in Miami. "They say they all even out," Utley said. "We'll see if that happens."

Once Again, Phillies Offensive Falters – The Phillies will have at least one player appear at next month's All-Star Game in Cincinnati, but he is almost certainly going to come from the pitching staff, according to the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot update. Cole Hamels (5-4, 2.91 ERA), Aaron Harang (4-5, 2.02 ERA) and Jonathan Papelbon (1.25 ERA, 11-for-11 in save opportunities) each could make cases for themselves to make the team. The case is more difficult to make for Phillies position players. Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis looked like a candidate in April, but he is fading after a hot start. He is hitting .211 with a .514 OPS since May 8. Ryan Howard had been on a roll, but he has just two hits in his past 23 at-bats. No Phillies player is among the highest vote getters in's second National League All-Star voting update. Fans can cast their votes for starters at and all 30 club sites -- on their computers, tablets and smartphones -- using the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, July 2, at 11:59 p.m. ET. For the first time, voting is exclusively online, where fans may submit up to 35 ballots. Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages. No purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info. Following the announcement of the 2015 All-Stars, be sure to return to and cast your 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player for each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 14, watch the 2015 All-Star Game live on FOX, and during the game visit to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2015 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. will provide extensive online coverage of All-Star Week festivities. The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit

Minor Awards – The Phillies named Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins their Minor League pitcher and player of the month, respectively, on Tuesday. Nola, who turns 22 on Thursday, went 4-1 with a 1.35 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in six starts with Double-A Reading. He struck out 32 and allowed just five walks in 40 innings. Nola, who the Phillies selected in the first round of the 2014 Draft, is the organization's No. 2 prospect and the No. 34 prospect in baseball, according to Hoskins, 22, hit .342 (38-for-111) with six doubles, two triples, two home runs, 23 RBIs and a .908 OPS in May with Class A Lakewood. The Phillies selected the 6-foot-4 first baseman in the fifth round in 2014.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 20-33. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance this spring, don’t expect their competitive place in the standings to last. All time, the Phillies are 46-56-0 on this day.

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