Thursday, June 4, 2015

Franco Comes Up Big Again For Phillies

GAME RECAP: Phillies Stun Reds 5-4

After a Maikel Franco three-run home run sent the game to extra innings, Cody Asche's double in the bottom of the 11th inning followed by an error by pitcher Ryan Mattheus on a Freddy Galvis infield ground ball gave the Phillies their second come-from-behind victory in two nights versus the Reds, this time by a score of 5-4. First baseman Joey Votto fielded the grounder and tossed the ball to Mattheus, but the pitcher was unable to handle the toss. Asche, who had advanced to third on the dribbler, scored the game-winning run on the error. Galvis was not credited with an RBI. "It hit off my glove, I should make that play," Mattheus said. "There's no excuse for it. We practice that in Spring Training probably 500 times. I've got to make that play." For the second night in a row, Franco tied the game for the Phillies with a home run to left field. Tuesday night Franco tied the game in the eighth inning with a two-run home run. Wednesday, with Ryan Howard and Jeff Francoeur on first and second, Franco lined the Aroldis Chapman pitch into the left-field seats to tie the game at 4-4 after the Phillies entered the ninth inning trailing 4-0. The home run was projected by Statcast™ to land 414 feet away with an exit velocity of 105 mph. "He's really showing what he can do with connecting and also the at-bats that he's getting against these pitchers, a lot of guys for the first time," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "But I really see the ball really taking off Franco's bat." Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake carried a no-hit bid for 6 2/3 innings until it was broken up by a Franco single to left field. Leake threw eight innings-plus, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts. Cole Hamels settled for a no decision for the Phillies in an uncharacteristically choppy start versus the Reds. Hamels entered the game 9-0 career versus the Reds with an ERA of 1.51 and a WHIP of 0.91. He allowed two runs, six hits and walked three in seven innings of work. Hamels is now 5-5 with an ERA of 2.88 this season.

  • Wednesday was the second time in Hamels' last two starts that his team was threatened with a no-hitter. On May 29, Chad Bettis of the Rockies didn't give up a hit until Asche singled with one out in the eighth inning. The Phillies have only scored more than three runs in four of Hamels' 12 starts this year.
  • Jake Diekman continued his 2015 struggles by allowing two runs in two-thirds of an inning after coming in, in the top of the ninth. The two runs, which came courtesy of a Votto home run, extended the Reds' lead to 4-0, setting the stage for extra innings. Diekman has now allowed 16 earned runs in 20 innings this season.
  • Hamels has pitched seven or more innings and allowed two or fewer earned runs in a career-best six consecutive starts. It is the longest streak by a Phillies pitcher since Cliff Lee did it in nine consecutive starts from Aug. 4 - Sept. 20, 2011.
  • Hamels warmed up in the top of the eighth inning before Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg removed him from the game. Injured? Traded? Nah, Sandberg said they simply wanted Ken Giles to get a few more warm-up pitches.
  • "What I've seen from Maikel is the better the pitcher, the better the stuff is, the better he is at hitting. He's unbelievable. It's unbelievable the skill he's got. He's got a quick bat. And the ability to drive high velocity fastballs is not something you see from a young player. That's a tough skill to have." -- Asche, on Franco's batting style.
  • Harang is fifth in the National League in ERA with a mark of 2.02 through 11 starts. Harang has only allowed four runs in 35 innings at Citizens Bank Park this season.
  • Jeff Francoeur started Wednesday's game in right field for the Phillies for the struggling Ben Revere who was 2-for-25 dating back to May 26. Francoeur has a slightly better track record versus the Reds than Revere, with Francouer's career slash line versus Cincinnati being .272/.310/.428 and Revere's being .282/.290/.308.
  • After Marlon Byrd's injury Tuesday, Reds manager Bryan Price indicated that he will be deploying a platoon of Brennan Boesch, Kristopher Negron and Skip Schumaker in left field. Of the three, only Schumaker has ever faced Harang and it was with moderate success. He is 10-for-38 lifetime versus Harang with three doubles, one home run and three RBIs.

On pace for the best season of his 14-year career, the next lineup Aaron Harang has to face comes from the clubhouse with which he is the most familiar. Harang and the Philadelphia Phillies will face off against Anthony DeSclafani and the Cincinnati Reds for the third game of a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. Harang spent eight seasons with the Reds from 2003-2010 when he had a record of 76-83 with an ERA of 4.30. Harang has pitched well versus his former team in his career, possessing a 3-1 record and a 2.97 ERA in five starts versus the Reds. DeSclafani has not had the same kind of success against the Phillies, as the right-hander has an ERA of 7.94 in two career appearances vs. Philadelphia.


Franco Comes Through Again! – When Maikel Franco steps into the batter's box, all he tries to do is see the pitches. But unlike most other hitters, when the pitches come in so fast that he can barely see them, Franco feels even more at ease. "It's not simple but I feel more comfortable," Franco said. "When I know somebody can throw hard and I know he's not going to use so many breaking balls, I can just be ready for one pitch." In Wednesday's 5-4 Phillies' win over the Reds in 11 innings, Franco's one pitch came in a particularly daunting situation. On a 1-0 count, the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman -- a reliever who had allowed four runs all season coming into Wednesday -- served Franco a 98-mph fastball. The right-handed batter turned on the pitch, pulling a line drive into the left-field bleachers projected by Statcast™ to land 414 feet away and sent the game into extra innings. This was the second night in a row Franco set up an eventual Phillies walk-off, as on Tuesday Franco smacked a two-run homer into left field in the eighth inning to tie the game, setting the stage for a Darin Ruf walk-off single. Franco's friend and teammate Freddy Galvis said he has seen something different from his left-side-of-the-infield mate since Tuesday. "He's got power. He's got contact," Galvis said. "Yesterday I think he put some stuff together and it paid off yesterday and today." Cody Asche, the man who Franco replaced a month ago as the Phillies' third baseman, wasn't surprised to see Franco hit the ball as well as he did against a pitcher of Chapman's caliber. Asche said over the three days the two of them spent in Triple-A together in May he grew accustomed to seeing Franco prey on quality pitching. "What I've seen from Maikel is the better the pitcher, the better the stuff is, the better he is at hitting," Asche said. "He's unbelievable. It's unbelievable the skill he's got. He's got a quick bat. And the ability to drive high velocity fastballs is not something you see from a young player. That's a tough skill to have." Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg also praised Franco, saying that he's been impressed by how confident Franco has been the past few days and how unfazed he was by seeing Chapman on the mound, especially having never faced the hard-throwing lefty before. And though some may be quick to slap the "clutch" label upon Franco based on his contributions the past two nights, not even Franco sees himself that way. Rather, he sees his achievements as necessary steps on the quest for his ultimate goal. "I'm just trying my best," Franco said. "I try to do better every day. I come in every day and I'm just trying to be the best in the game."

Hamels Continues To Increase Value – First things first: Cole Hamels is OK. He started to warm up in the top of the eighth inning in Wednesday's 5-4 victory over the Reds in 11 innings at Citizens Bank Park, when Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg emerged from the dugout to remove him from the game. That had some wondering if Hamels had suffered an injury, which would be catastrophic to the team's rebuilding plans, or had suddenly been traded to a contender. "Yeah, that's great," Hamels said with a smile, when told about the mild panic it caused among Phillies fans. "That's awesome. Was it on the Phillies' Twitter? As long as I'm getting them the hits, that's all that matters. That's good." Hamels is fine. The Phillies said they simply wanted Ken Giles to have a few extra warm-up pitches in the bullpen. "I was discussing with [pitching coach Bob McClure] about Cole's outing and we decided he had some stress throughout his whole outing with the baserunners," Sandberg said. Hamels allowed six hits, two runs, three walks and struck out eight in seven innings Wednesday. That typically is a pretty solid effort, although Hamels loaded the bases in the third and fourth innings. But it did not match Reds right-hander Mike Leake, who no-hit the Phillies through 6 2/3 innings. The last time Hamels pitched -- last Friday -- the Phillies were being no-hit into the eighth inning. But a lack of run support for Hamels is not a recent trend. Wednesday was the fifth time in 12 starts this season the Phillies have not scored a run for him while he has been in the game. "I just think that you have to give the credit to the pitchers we are facing," Hamels said. Hamels got a no-decision after Maikel Franco's game-tying, three-run homer in the ninth. It left his record against the Reds unblemished. He is 10-0 with a 1.45 ERA in 14 career starts against the Reds, which includes a shutout in Game 3 of the 2010 National League Division Series.

Billingsley Making Progress – Chad Billingsley's lat strain won't keep him on the DL as long as his last injury did, but that doesn't mean the Phillies aren't going to be cautious with the veteran. After missing more than two years due to injury, Billingsley worked his way back into a Major League rotation on May 5. That return only lasted 10 days as he hasn't pitched since May 15 due to the lat strain. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said before Wednesday's game that Billingsley has been making progress and is working toward a return. "He's on a throwing program," Sandberg said. "He threw from 75 feet yesterday and he'll continue to throw. [He's] playing catch basically. We'll lengthen that out day to day and it looks like right now that he'll do an actual side [session] on Tuesday on the road trip. "He's building toward that. He's progressing really well and we're taking it on the slow side of things. Building up to the side on Tuesday."

Preparing For His First Draft – Phillies president Pat Gillick said something interesting in Spring Training about new amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz. He said Almaraz likes players. "People might not understand that," Gillick said, "but sometimes you look at a player and you can talk about his minuses or you can talk about his pluses. Our new scouting director, he talks about players' pluses. He wants to concentrate on what this player can do, not on what he cannot do. So I think it's a little bit of a different approach." The Phillies announced in October that Almaraz had replaced Marti Wolever, who had run the organization's drafts for more than a decade. Almaraz gets his first crack at it next week, when Major League Baseball holds the 2015 Draft. The Phillies have the 10th overall pick. "I believe that we all know what a baseball player is," Almaraz said Wednesday evening at Citizens Bank Park. "It's somebody who executes the fundamentals, somebody who hits behind the runner, somebody who takes pitches, who can bunt the ball to both sides of the field. Pitchers who can throw strikes, first pitch for a strike. "Baseball players who know how to play the game. We're going after baseball players with ability. Sometimes when you get somebody who is extremely talented in any sport, and you try to teach them the game sometimes they cannot ever learn it." The Phillies hope that tweak in philosophy serves them well. Since the Phillies selected Cole Hamels with the 17th overall pick in the 2002 MLB Draft, Phillies first-round selections (including supplemental picks) have a combined -1.2 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. That group includes outfielder Greg Golson (2004, playing in Mexico), right-hander Kyle Drabek (2006, pitching in Triple-A Charlotte), infielder Adrian Cardenas (2006, retired), left-hander Joe Savery (2007, not playing), Travis d'Arnaud (2007, Mets), Anthony Hewitt (2008, Class A Frederick), Zach Collier (2008, not playing), Jesse Biddle (2010, Double-A Reading), Larry Greene (2011, retired), Shane Watson (2012, injured), Mitch Guellar (2012, injured ), J.P. Crawford (2013, Double-A Reading) and Aaron Nola (2014, Double-A Reading). In fact, since the Phillies selected Golson in 2004, the Phillies' five most successful draft picks have been J.A. Happ (third round in 2004, 6.8 WAR), Vance Worley (third round in 2005, 5.4 WAR), Jarred Cosart (38th round in 2008, 5.5 WAR), A.J. Griffin (34th round in 2009, 4.3 WAR) and Kyle Gibson (36th round in 2006, 3.4 WAR). Griffin and Gibson never signed with the Phillies. They reentered the Draft at a later date. The Phillies will be looking for the best player available at No. 10, which only makes sense. While they certainly could use a hitter, they cannot afford to be picky. They have numerous holes to fill. "I know we are going to get a good player at 10," Almaraz said. And what would make his first Draft a successful one? "My definition of a successful Draft is getting somebody in the first, second and third round who are going to impact the Major League level four to five years from now or sooner," he said.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 21-33. 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 34-62-0 on this day.

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