Saturday, July 25, 2015

Frenchie Come Through Again in Extra Innings

GAME RECAP: Phillies Outlast Cubs 5-3

Cody Asche hit a game-tying double in the ninth inning and Jeff Francoeur smacked a two-run homer with two outs in the 10th to lift the Phillies to a 5-3 victory Friday over the Cubs in front of 41,230 at Wrigley Field. The Phils tied the game at 3 with one out in the ninth against Jason Motte when Freddy Galvis tripled and scored on Asche's double. It was Motte's first blown save of the season. In the 10th, Cesar Hernandez singled and two outs later Francoeur connected against Rafael Soriano for his ninth home run. "Ruin other teams," Francoeur said, asked if the last-place Phillies would like to play spoiler in the second half. "That's what you want to do. At this point, that's why you want to play." Chicago starter Jon Lester was in line for the win after serving up two runs over seven innings, but he did not get a decision. In five starts in July, the left-hander has a 1.58 ERA, allowing six earned runs over 35 1/3 innings. "If there's anything we didn't do well, it's get the hit when we needed it," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of his team, which was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, stranding 10. "The opportunities were there."

  • Francoeur's last eight days have been pretty memorable. He hit a pinch-hit three-run homer July 17 in a 6-3 victory over Miami and a walk-off two-run homer Sunday in an 8-7 victory over Miami before hitting the game-winner Friday against Cubs reliever Rafael Soriano. "The last year and the year before, I was always in my own head trying to do too much," Francoeur said. "Now it's just, 'Show up and have fun.' So far it's working out."
  • Lester and Cubs catcher David Ross thought they struck out Asche on a pitch in the fourth inning, but home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo thought differently. Asche took advantage and hit a two-out double off the center-field wall to score two runs and hand the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Asche then doubled into the ivy in center field with one out in the ninth to score Galvis to tie the game. "The most important guy on the field didn't think it was a strike," Lester said. "You have to go back to making pitches. The cutter didn't quite get all the way down and away like we wanted it. It wasn't a terrible pitch, but it wasn't ideal."
  • The last time Jerome Williams pitched for the Phillies, Bob McClure was waving a white towel to get the attention of the Phillies' bullpen at Oriole Park because the phone was off the hook. Williams injured himself in that game, and he returned to face the Cubs. He allowed six hits, three runs, one walk, two home runs and struck out four in six innings. It was his furth quality start in 15 outings this season. "I'm flushing that first half down the toilet," said Williams, who is 3-7 with a 6.28 ERA. "It's a new half. I just want to go about my business and try to finish strong."
  • "A big play by [Maikel] Franco with the bases loaded. What a play. Fantastic play. It saved a run." -- Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, on Franco's barehanded effort to end the eighth inning with the bases loaded.
  • Third baseman Maikel Franco returned to the lineup Friday after being pulled from Monday's game because of a sore right elbow. "He's fine," Mackanin said. "It wasn't as serious as we thought it could be."
  • Mackanin said he does not have an official No. 1 catcher at the moment. Cameron Rupp has started 15 games since June 20. Carlos Ruiz has started 12. "We want to see Rupp as much as we can," Mackanin said. "We know what Chooch is and what he has been."
  • Right-hander Aaron Harang is on the DL with plantar fasciitis. He said he could begin a rehab assignment early next week.

Saturday's 4:05 p.m. ET contest against the Cubs could be Cole Hamels' final start in a Phillies uniform. The Phils would like to trade him before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but he needs to help himself. He has a 19.89 ERA in his last two starts. Jake Arrieta will make his 20th start of the season on Saturday in the second game of this three-game series. Arrieta is riding a stretch of six consecutive quality starts, and is 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA in that stretch with 44 strikeouts over 46 2/3 innings.


Thriving In The Clutch – Jeff Francoeur said again Friday that he would like to stay in Philadelphia and even rejoin the Phillies next season. But he sure keeps playing like somebody who could help a contender down the stretch. Francoeur hit a two-out, two-run home run in the 10th inning of a 5-3 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. It was his third big homer in eight days as the Phillies improved to 6-1 since the All-Star break. "I enjoy it here. I enjoy these guys," Francoeur said. "I enjoy playing with the young guys, and I would like to be part of this thing next year. I enjoy the role I'm in right now. It's fun coming here knowing that even when you don't play, there's a good chance you'll pinch-hit and have a chance to help the team win." Francoeur hit a pinch-hit three-run shot in the eighth inning of a 6-3 victory over the Marlins on July 17 at Citizens Bank Park. He then hit a walk-off two-run home run in an 8-7 victory Sunday over the Marlins. Francoeur is hitting .265 (52-for-196) with 11 doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 33 RBIs and a .767 OPS in 73 games. He is hitting .417 (8-for-17) with two doubles, one home run and nine RBIs as a pinch-hitter. These past eight days have been some of Francoeur's best in the big leagues in a few years. "Absolutely," Francoeur said. "I remember when we were in Spring Training, I'd hear Charlie [Manuel]. The one thing he'd try to get back in me was confidence and relaxing myself. And when you're doing that, you give yourself an opportunity so you can kind of get out of your own way. The last year and the year before, I was always in my own head trying to do too much. Now it's just, 'Show up and have fun.' So far it's working out." Frenchy's teammates are enjoying his renaissance. "The pinch-hitting ... home-run hitting ... kiss stealin' ... wheelin' dealin' ... son of a gun ... woo!" Jonathan Papelbon belted in the tiny visitors' clubhouse after the game, rewording the Ric Flair speech that plays whenever Papelbon enters the game at Citizens Bank Park. "Woo!" a few teammates responded.

Papelbon Continues To Audition – Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon almost looked like a salesman Friday at Wrigley Field. He chatted up Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer hours before he earned his 17th save in 17 opportunities in a 5-3 victory over Chicago. In between those friendly conversations with his old buddies from Boston, the Cubs' bullpen allowed the tying run to score in the ninth inning and the winning runs to score in the 10th. Chicago fell into a tie with the Giants for the second National League Wild Card spot. They could have used that victory. The Cubs, who are closing by committee, could have used somebody like Papelbon, although if they have any interest in him, it is minimal. "I don't need to make a sales pitch," Papelbon said. "I asked about their families. There was nothing like, 'Hey, what do you have going on here? Come get me.' Nothing like that. Those are guys that will be baseball friends forever. I'm not going to go over there and beg and make a sales pitch to them. They know me. "I'm just going out there to compete. There's not much else on my mind. How many more days to the Deadline?" It's next Friday. "We've got a week," Papelbon said. "I'm a robot, you know what I mean? I just do my job."

It All Comes Down To One Start – Cole Hamels has had one heck of a career, but in the past week, the Phillies and Hamels have had to remind people about it. Hamels is scheduled to make his final start before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline on Saturday afternoon against the Cubs, unless somebody skips a turn in the rotation and he pitches Thursday. He needs a good one, too. Hamels has posted a 19.89 ERA in his past two starts, and he has allowed five or more runs in six of 19 starts this season. Only four pitchers have had more five-plus-run starts this season (Shane Greene, Kyle Lohse, Kyle Kendrick and John Danks). "I expect to see him pitch like himself every time he goes out," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said Friday. "The last two outings were hopefully an anomaly. The stuff was there. The command wasn't. You know what he's capable of doing." But if Hamels produces another clunker, it is hard to imagine a contending team giving up a couple top prospects for him, regardless of his career numbers. "If I were with another team, I would just be looking at the stuff," Mackanin said. The Phils could wait until the offseason to deal Hamels, who has been linked to the Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, Red Sox and others. Keep an eye on Texas. Disgruntled closer Jonathan Papelbon also could stick around, which would be fascinating to watch if it happens. He has made it incredibly clear he wants out of Philadelphia. Papelbon chatted up Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer before Friday's game. Chicago had expressed some interest in Papelbon, and both front-office members know him from their time with Boston, but it does not mean anything is cooking. "One thing about Pap, he's a bit peculiar, as we all know," Mackanin said. "But when he goes on the mound, he does his job. He's a fierce competitor. We don't worry about him when he's on the mound." Of course, one wonders if Papelbon's public criticisms of the Phillies over the years could make some general managers and owners tentative about acquiring him. Papelbon generally has been fine in Philadelphia's clubhouse, but perception may become reality. Could Papelbon become a disruption if he remains with the team on Aug. 1? "It's a consideration. Apparently, he would like to be traded. He's come out and said it," Mackanin said. "If not, we'll just have to wait and see."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 35-63. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance so far this season, this could end up being the worst team in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 43-59-0 on this day.

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