Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This Is NOT A Joke: Franco And Phillies Outhit Yankees

GAME RECAP: Phillies Overpower Yankees 11-8

Maikel Franco homered twice and drove in a career-high five runs in a four-hit performance and Cesar Hernandez scored three runs, pacing the Phillies' biggest offensive outburst of the season as they pounded Michael Pineda in an 11-8 victory on Monday at Yankee Stadium. Franco notched the first multi-homer game of his career, slugging his eighth and ninth blasts of the year. Eight of the nine Philadelphia starters logged a hit as they saw Pineda chased with one out in the fourth inning, surrendering eight runs on 11 hits. "He's got everything you look for in a young player," Phillies right-hander Kevin Correia said of Franco. "He's got similarities to [Albert] Pujols with his mechanics. They're pretty amazing at this point of his career. I heard how good he was. He's showing it since I've been here, defensively and offensively. He's a guy when you're on a team in this situation that you look forward to the future." Brett Gardner hit a three-run homer off Correia, who allowed five runs and eight hits in four innings before yielding to Jake Diekman, who picked up the win in relief. Brian McCann hit a seventh-inning homer off Elvis Araujo to trim the Yanks' deficit, but the Phils held on to snap their 12-game road losing streak, their longest since 1999.

  • Franco is giving the Phillies some hope for the future. He went 4-for-5 with two home runs, five RBIs and three runs scored, including a solo home run in the first inning and a two-run home run in the sixth. He also made a great defensive play in the sixth inning. Franco might be in the conversation to make the National League All-Star team, despite the fact he was not promoted from Triple-A Lehigh Valley until May 15. "Well, we knew he was a really good player," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm as impressed by the play that he made on Chris Young [in the sixth] as the hits that he had. There's a ton of arm strength there, and it was great range. He's obviously a very talented kid, and we got to witness it first-hand today."
  • Hernandez believes he could be the Phillies' second baseman of the future, and he has been making his case lately. He went 2-for-5 with one double, two RBIs and three runs scored. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has said the last two days he wants to see more of Hernandez, which means less time for Chase Utley, who was the DH and the lone Phillies starter without a hit.
  • "I don't even pay attention, I'm just going out there. I know everybody is telling me, 'You're going good,' my family is telling me I'm doing good, but when I go out there, I'm just trying to play the game and play the game right." -- Franco, on if he is aware of the numbers he is putting up offensively.
  • The Phillies have scored 19 runs over their last two games after scoring exactly 19 runs in their previous 10 games combined (June 10-20; Phils went 1-9 in those games).
  • The Phillies had lost 12 road games in a row before taking Monday night's series opener, matching their longest road skid since 1999.
  • The Yankees have scored 66 runs in the first inning this season. They've scored in the first inning in 29 separate contests.
  • With 211 wins, Sabathia is tied with Billy Pierce for 23rd all-time by a left-handed pitcher.

The Phillies will have another crack at trying to erase a four-year series drought against American League East teams Tuesday night, when they take on the Yankees for the second game of a three-game series. The last time the Phillies took a series from an AL East opponent was July 1-3, 2011, against Toronto. As they continue to look for success in what has been a trying season, the Phils will send right-hander Sean O'Sullivan to the mound, looking for just his second win of the season. The Yankees will counter with left-hander CC Sabathia, who is 3-7 on the season with a 5.31 ERA. In his last outing, O'Sullivan tossed five innings against Baltimore with seven strikeouts in a no-decision. Sabathia is also coming off of a seven-strikeout, no-decision start, in which he gave up five hits and three runs in a Yankees win over the Marlins.


Eager To See Hamels – Expect plenty of scouts Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels will pitch against the Yankees after missing Friday's start against the Cardinals because of tightness in his right hamstring. He threw a bullpen session Sunday in Philadelphia and gave a reporter the thumbs up when asked if it went well and if he planned to pitch in New York. That is good news for Hamels, the Phillies and contending teams everywhere. It is no secret the Phillies are trying to trade Hamels before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. They are on pace to lose 107 games, so the plan is to trade Hamels and as many veterans as possible (Jonathan Papelbon, Aaron Harang, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Ben Revere, etc.) for a group of prospects that conceivably could speed up the rebuilding process. Hamels is the Phillies' most valuable trade chip. He is 5-5 with a 2.96 ERA in 14 starts this season, but his record is deceiving as he has the third-lowest run support average in Major League Baseball. But Hamels has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for years. His 3.17 ERA from 2008-15 ranks 10th out of 103 qualified pitchers. His 1.13 WHIP ranks eighth and his 3.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio is ninth. The Phillies are counting on Hamels to land them their greatest haul of prospects before the Trade Deadline. Of course, there are stumbling blocks. Hamels has a limited no-trade clause, but more important than that, he is making $22.5 million this season and is owed at least $73.5 million from 2016-19, which includes a $6 million buyout on a $20 million club option. Phillies president Pat Gillick said Sunday the Phillies are willing to take on a portion of a player's salary to get the right players back in a trade. But Hamels only gets traded if he is healthy. He said he is. "There are times when you just want to be smart no matter what the circumstances are," Hamels said. "I know they're a little bit different than previous circumstances in previous years, but I'm not going to change the way I like to play the game and prepare for the game."

Making A Big Impact – Is Maikel Franco the best position player on the Phillies? Is he All-Star worthy? Those questions are nice diversions from a season filled with few highlights. The rookie third baseman went 4-for-5 with two home runs, five RBIs and three runs scored in Monday night's 11-8 victory over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He hit a solo home run that landed a projected 402 feet away in the first inning, according to Statcast™, and a two-run home run that landed a projected 430 feet away in the sixth inning, as the Phillies set season highs in runs and hits (18). "Yeah, it was so special," Franco said about Yankee Stadium. "Especially in the Dominican, every young player wants to play in Yankee Stadium." Franco became the first Phillies rookie to hit two homers in a game since Darin Ruf in 2012, and the first Phils rookie to have five RBIs in a game since Ryan Howard in '05. "He's got everything you look for in a young player," Phillies right-hander Kevin Correia said. "He's got similarities to [Albert] Pujols with his mechanics. They're pretty amazing at this point of his career. I heard how good he was. He's showing it since I've been here, defensively and offensively. He's a guy, when you're on a team in this situation, that you look forward to the future." "He knows how to play the game and he's showing it," Howard said. Franco, who set career highs in hits, homers and RBIs in a game, is hitting .312 with eight doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 24 RBIs and a .928 OPS in 150 plate appearances. There is no question he is the team's best position player. But has he entered the conversation for the All-Star Game? The NL has had 21 rookie position players make the All-Star team. Phillies outfielder Del Ennis and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper both made the latest debuts of those rookies, playing their first games of the season on April 28, 1946, and April 28, 2012, respectively. Franco joined the Phillies on May 15, which means he has far fewer plate appearances than other candidates. So it would take something extraordinary for Franco to make it. Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon figure to be the favorites to represent the Phillies, but there always is a chance they could be traded before the All-Star break. If that would happen, maybe Franco jumps to the top. He does not have enough plate appearances to qualify, but if he did, he would rank second among NL third basemen in OPS. Only Cincinnati's Todd Frazier (.993) entered the night with a better mark than Franco. "What have we got, 2 1/2 weeks?" Phillies manager Sandberg said about the All-Star break. "You never know. That's a possibility."

Tough Task – Ryne Sandberg can relate to Chase Utley better than anybody in the Phillies' organization. He is a Hall of Fame second baseman, while Utley had a Hall of Fame-like run from 2005-13, with the best OPS (.884) and WAR (59.0) among qualified second basemen. But Utley's future with the Phillies is uncertain, as he finished Monday's 11-8 victory over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium hitting .179 with a .532 OPS in 249 plate appearances. "I know the grind that he puts into it and the effort," Sandberg said before the game. "I see the ability in pregame. I see him being healthy and I see him being upbeat, and I'd just like to see the most out of what he can do. On the other hand, I want to see what a young player [Cesar Hernandez] can do, so that's the challenging thing." Hernandez went 2-for-5 with a double, two RBIs and three runs scored in the victory. He is hitting .273 with a .697 OPS in his last nine games. Utley, who went 0-for-4, needs 500 plate appearances this season to automatically vest a $15 million club option for next season. Utley is on pace to reach that. Asked Sunday if it would be negligent for the organization to allow Utley to hit that mark if his struggles continue, Phillies president Pat Gillick maintained that the front office will have no say in how Sandberg makes out his lineup. Sandberg said Monday he has received no directive about Utley's playing time. "I know that he has [the vesting option], but I won't operate [with it] in mind," Sandberg said. Hernandez started at second base Monday, while Utley served as the Phillies' designated hitter. Hernandez has started five of the last eight games at second base, although Utley has been a DH twice and a first baseman once. "It's a daily challenge," Sandberg said about handling both Utley and Hernandez. "You know, from this point it's watching the games and making judgments on who should be out there. Probably would fall under the category of what's best for both players. For Chase to play well and to show what he can do, and to play well is important. And to see Cesar play, he can get experience, that's important. There's two sides of it that are important going forward, and that's the challenge." So what's up with Utley's struggles? Utley's batting average of balls in play is .189, which indicates he has run into some bad luck. But Utley is also not squaring up balls like most hitters. According to Statcast™, Utley's batted ball velocity average is 87.95 mph. That ranks 119th out of 181 players, which means nearly two-thirds of big league hitters hit the ball harder more consistently than Utley. Utley is 36. Sandberg retired at 38. Asked when he knew it was time to walk away, Sandberg said, "I'd say the daily grind of second base every day and not wanting to be a part-time player. When it was getting close to that or it felt like it was getting close to presenting that, that's when I was used to being a regular and I hated sitting on the bench. I made that call myself."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 25-47. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance so far this year, this could end up being the worst team in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 49-56-1 on this day.

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