Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Franco’s Slam Keeps Dodgers From J-Rolling

GAME RECAP: Phillies Down Dodgers 6-2

Maikel Franco continues to give Phillies fans hope for the future. On a night the Phillies celebrated the return of franchise hits leader Jimmy Rollins, Franco hit a tiebreaking grand slam in the seventh inning of a 6-2 victory over the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. Franco is the first Phillies rookie to hit a grand slam since Ryan Howard, who hit one in Atlanta on Sept. 21, 2005. The Phillies are 13-3 since the All-Star break, which is the best record in baseball. "I talked to Jimmy before the game," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "I said, 'Jimmy, I don't care if you get eight hits, just as long as we win all three games.' He meant a lot to us." Left-hander Alex Wood allowed four runs over 6 1/3 innings in his Dodgers debut. Following an unorthodox balk, he exited with the bases loaded in the seventh and Joel Peralta served up a 1-1 curveball to Franco for the decisive hit. "I'm sure he didn't want the breaking ball there," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He wanted it down and get them to try to roll it."

  • Former Phillies MVP Rollins returned to Citizens Bank Park as an opponent for the first time. He was cheered when he took the field for warmups; stepped out of the batter's box twice to acknowledge a standing ovation in his first at-bat; single and doubled, but struck out with two on the end the eighth and committed an error. "It was a great moment," Rollins said of the first-inning ovation. "It went on a little longer than I expected."
  • The Phillies had wasted scoring opportunities throughout the night, but Franco finally delivered a big hit in the seventh. Franco is hitting .314 (11-for-35) with five doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs in his last nine games. "That was amazing for me," Franco said. "My energy was high at that time. My first big league grand slam."
  • The Phillies had runners on first and second with one out in the seventh when a ball slipped out of Wood's hand on a 3-2 pitch to Odubel Herrera. It came to a stop between the pitcher's mound and first base. With no Dodgers making a move for the ball, Carlos Ruiz ran on the play and scored from second base. But umpires ruled it a balk. They made the right call: "Rule 8.01(d): A ball which slips out of a pitcher's hand and crosses the foul line shall be called a ball; otherwise it will be called no pitch. This would be a balk with men on base." "That was different," said Mattingly.
  • "In a way, I was almost happy to see [Franco] face a right-hander because he's not hitting that well against left-handers. It worked out well." -- Mackanin, on the seventh-inning pitching change that set up Franco's grand slam.
  • Franco is hitting .282 with a .339 on-base percentage and a .491 slugging percentage. Since 1930, the only Phillies rookie with a better slash line was Dick Allen (.318/.382/.557) in 1964.
  • Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown did not start Tuesday against Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood, so it will be interesting to see if he starts Wednesday against Anderson. The left-handed-hitting Brown is batting .366 (15-for-41) with two home runs and eight RBIs in his last 11 games.
  • Phillies second baseman Chase Utley went 1-for-4 with two runs scored Tuesday in a rehab game with Double-A Reading. He will play again Wednesday, and it would not be a surprise to see him activated before the end of the week. Utley has been on the DL since June 23 with a sprained right ankle. Utley will play in his third rehab game Wednesday night with Double-A Reading. The Phillies' second baseman has been on the DL since June 23 with a sprained right ankle. Expect Utley to rejoin the Phillies soon, and when he does, expect him to play. There is a chance the Phillies could trade him before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline, so they will need to showcase him.

Former Dodgers starter Aaron Harang will take the hill for the Phillies on Wednesday night against his former club and left-hander Brett Anderson at Citizens Bank Park. Harang has 11 losses, but in seven of them the Phillies have scored two or fewer runs, and his ERA is 3.97. This will be only his second start since returning from nearly a month on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis. Anderson, meanwhile, will be making his second start since leaving a game in the third inning with an irritation of his left Achilles, although he pitched seven innings in his next start.


Taking Advantage Of The Balk – Did Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood balk or not? Wood had runners on first and second with one out in the seventh inning of the Dodgers' 6-2 loss to the Phillies on Tuesday when he let a 3-2 pitch to Odubel Herrera slip out of his hand. The ball landed between the mound and first base and Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, noticing that no Dodgers fielder bothered to pick up the ball, ran on the play and scored from second base. Except he did not. Umpires ruled the pitch a balk and sent Ruiz back to third. Rule 8.01(d) states that "A ball which slips out of a pitcher's hand and crosses the foul line shall be called a ball; otherwise it will be called no pitch. This would be a balk with men on base." The umpires ruled the play correctly. "I knew it was a balk," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "Because it didn't cross the foul line, it's a balk. The runners advance, but the ball is dead so the runner could not score. There is a certain play where if a balk is called and the pitcher makes a pitch and the hitter gets a base hit, then the hitter can elect to choose the hit. But that wasn't the case with that play. I don't think I've ever seen that before, but as it turned out it worked out best for us, with Maikel Franco's home run." Wood walked Herrera on the next pitch to load the bases and Franco followed with a grand slam against reliever Joel Peralta.

Looking Into The Future – On a night the Phillies and their fans remembered the past, two pieces of the future came up big. Maikel Franco hit a grand slam and Ken Giles picked up a four-out save in Tuesday's 6-2 victory over the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. Franco became the first Phillies rookie to hit a grand slam since Ryan Howard, who hit one Sept. 21, 2005, in Atlanta. Giles struck out Jimmy Rollins looking on a 100-mph fastball to end a scoring threat in the eighth inning. Rollins played in his first game in Philadelphia since the Phillies traded their franchise hits leader to the Dodgers in December. Fans gave him a long standing ovation in the top of the first inning. He tipped his cap twice. "Jimmy is Philly," Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams said. "He's forever a Phillie." But fans gave the loudest cheers to Franco. He was hitless in his first three at-bats when he faced Dodgers right-hander Joel Peralta with the bases loaded in a tie game in the seventh. He ripped a 1-1 curveball to left field for his first career grand slam. "That was amazing for me," Franco said. "My energy was high at that time. My first big league grand slam." Franco is hitting .314 (11-for-35) with five doubles, two home runs, nine RBIs and a 1.004 OPS in his last nine games. Before he homered July 26 at Wrigley Field, he had not gone deep since June 23. Interim manager Pete Mackanin and bench coach Larry Bowa were talking about that during the game. "We're kind of hoping he's going to hit a few more," Mackanin said. "Sure enough, the slam was nice to see. He's a gamer. He likes to play. He doesn't feel sorry for himself. He doesn't pout. He goes out to do damage. He plays to win and he's not going to give up." Giles, who earned his third save, threw 34 pitches in 1 1/3 innings. He threw 20 strikes. "I'd like to see him throw a few more strikes so I don't get as nervous," Mackanin said. But he got the job done. Somehow, some way, the Phillies have been getting the job done since the All-Star break. It might not be 2008 anymore, but lately the Phillies have been getting fans to think about what might be in a few years.

One Game Closer – Chase Utley took another step toward a return to the Phillies on Tuesday night, going 1-for-4 with a single and two runs scored while playing six innings in the field for Double-A Reading as he continues to rehab from a right ankle injury. "The ankle feels good," said Utley, who has been out of action since June 22. "So far, so good." In his first game action in the field since the injury, Utley looked fluid and smooth, fielding all four ground balls hit to him with ease. "When you're playing defense, you always want the ball hit to you," said Utley. "Having three balls hit to me early in the first inning was a nice early challenge." Serving as the third hitter in the Reading lineup, Utley singled in his third at-bat. "Right now, I'm just trying to create some timing," Utley said. "In a few at-bats, I think I had good timing. In some others, I was just a little off. It's a work in progress, and I am trying to improve with every at-bat here." Utley is expected to play one more game with Reading on Wednesday in Trenton before the organization reevaluates his status on Thursday. "I plan on coming back here tomorrow and playing a majority of the game while getting some more at-bats under my belt," said Utley. "We will see where I am after that."

Rollins Returns – He wanted to approach it like it was just another game, not that much different than the 2,190 that preceded it in his 16 big league seasons. Which was both exactly correct and predictably impossible. For the first time in his career, Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins came to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night as a visiting player. He was a spark plug for five straight division champions, two pennant winners and a World Series champion here. He won a Most Valuable Player Award here. He became the all-time hits leader for the charter National League franchise here. He became the best shortstop in the organization's 132 years here. And even though it wasn't the first time he had played against the Phillies -- that happened a month earlier at Dodger Stadium -- there were reminders everywhere that this wasn't a routine, one-out-of-162 kind of night at the ole ballpark. Yes, the Dodgers are in contention, and Rollins' first focus had to be on that. "We're here for bigger things, it's about winning and losing, not just me coming back to Philadelphia," he pointed out before going 2-for-5 with a double in the Dodgers' 6-2 loss. "We have games to win and games to play." Still ... His cell phone buzzed all day. It got to the point he had to ask some friends to stop texting. There were the dozens of media members waiting for him and later crowding around when he held court for more than 20 minutes in the dugout. He got a standing ovation when public-address announcer Dan Baker introduced the lineups, with Rollins batting leadoff and wearing his familiar No. 11 in unfamiliar Dodger Blue. As he limbered up in the on-deck circle before settling in against Jerome Williams, the Phanatic gave him a hard time and former Phillies manager Larry Bowa yelled at him from the dugout. Rollins smiled and acknowledged the man he supplanted as the best shortstop to ever wear a Phillies uniform. Another standing O followed when he walked to the plate, louder and longer than the first. A message on the giant video board in left: WELCOME BACK JIMMY. Then a picture of him as a kid accepting the Paul Owens Award, emblematic of the best player in the farm system, from the late, great executive. After that, and only after that, did some sort of normalcy return, even though each subsequent at-bat was accompanied by a different this-is-your-life photo on the big screen. Holding his MVP trophy. As a Little Leaguer. Waving to the crowd after his record-setting hit. Rollins caught the red-eye after the Dodgers beat the Angels at home on Sunday afternoon, landing at Philadelphia International Airport around 7 a.m ET on Monday morning. He still has his house in Swedesboro, N.J., where his family -- wife Johari and their two young daughters -- have been staying since the All-Star break. "No cable, so there's been a lot of Cinderella DVDs," he said with a smile. Rollins' in-laws are also in the area. On Monday night, they all went to a favorite restaurant right down the street. When he got to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday, he stopped to say hello to some longtime friends -- including director of team travel and clubhouse services Frank Coppenbarger and baseball administration director Susan Ingersoll Papaneri -- and then headed for uncharted territory: the visitor's clubhouse. "I'm glad there were cameras hanging out around the entrance," he joked. With the Phillies, Rollins could be a most thoughtful and incisive interview. That hasn't changed. He tackled a wide variety of subjects during his availability. Ryne Sandberg's biggest problem as manager, he said, was lack of communication. He believes Freddy Galvis has done a good job of replacing him. Of the young players, he's most impressed by Cesar Hernandez. His decision to waive his no-trade rights last offseason, followed by this season's Deadline trade of Cole Hamels to the Rangers, could be seen as a parallel to the July 2006 deal that sent Bobby Abreu to the Yankees. Then-general manager Pat Gillick said at the time that meant the Phillies were a couple of years away from contending. But the younger players, including Rollins, stepped forward and won the division the next season and the World Series the year after that. "[Gillick] said we wouldn't compete for about another three years and I think we all took it personally and sped that process up. So if there's any fight over there, those guys will do that too," Rollins said. "Sometimes you just need things to happen, whether it's adding players or subtracting players. That's what happened when I was here. I think that's what they're doing here, they're taking away some of the pieces and having younger players go out there and saying to them, 'This is your team. You show us which way we should go.'" Not that the players were told that at the time. "But we're smart guys. We can read the writing on the wall," Rollins said. "More than anything, when Pat had mentioned we wouldn't be competitive for a few years after that, we were already at that point where we wanted to be ready now. And he inspired us, he really did. Whether it was intentional or not, it definitely sparked us." A player doesn't spend as long as Rollins did and accomplish as much as he accomplished without leaving an indelible mark. He's smart enough to understand that, too, of course. And that it does him no good to build it up in his mind and put additional pressure on himself. That's why Rollins had to look at Tuesday night as just another game. Even though he knew all along it was anything but.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 42-65. 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 51-48-0 on this day.

No comments:

Post a Comment