The last few days of Phillies baseball haven’t gone so well.
Their most violent tormentor, the New York Mets, essentially came into Citizens Bank Park and held their collective heads under water for three days as the team thrashed and struggled to catch a brief gasp of oxygen.
It was a nasty three-game sweep, complete with a record-setting performance by Yoenis Cespedes on Tuesday in which he accumulated 14 total bases in their 14-4 drubbing of the Phils. That was tied for the most total bases ever by a Phillies opponent, and was the most ever at a Phillies home park by any opponent, ever.
There was a near-beaning incident between Asdrubal Cabrera and Edubray Ramos that almost got ugly, leading to the Mets’ come-from-behind victory on Monday and a team meeting by manager Pete Mackanin.
And there was last night’s disappointing outing by Vince Velasquez, which has already been covered in-depth on this fine website.
But one of the few bright spots from the last few days was the performance of Maikel Franco, who hit two homers in the series, one a grand slam, and appears on his way out of an early season slump.
In his first six games, Franco had just 3 hits in 26 plate appearances with a slash line of .136/.231/.182 and no dingers. But against the Mets he tallied 5 hits in 12 plate appearances, with those 2 homers and 6 RBIs.
His blast on Tuesday was a no-doubter...
Maikel Franco turns around 96 mph from Harvey into the LF stands. Nice. https://t.co/HSUsPW5HiB— John Stolnis (@FelskeFiles) April 11, 2017
...as was his four-run bomb last night.
Maikel Franco might be heating up, gang. https://t.co/ooLjtFPVjR— John Stolnis (@FelskeFiles) April 13, 2017
On both occasions, Franco jumped on fastballs in early in the count, which is just fine if he’s looking for that particular pitch in that particular location.
But perhaps more indicative of the emergence from his slump was his final at-bat of the game, in the 9th inning. With the team down 5-4, Franco knew a solo homer would tie it, so after taking a first-pitch strike, Franco swung from the heels in a subsequent pitch to the point where, you guessed it, his helmet fell off.
But instead of striking out or hitting a weak pop-up to the second baseman, Franco righted the ship and delivered a key hit to the opposite field.
Franco needed this game badly pic.twitter.com/u6Sx2597AV— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) April 13, 2017
Instead of trying to hit the ball to Marcus Hook, he served it into right-center field for a single that gave the Phils a runner on 1st with no outs.
And while Franco’s numbers early in the season weren’t great, he may have been hitting into some bad luck, too.
That the Phillies did not score in the 9th is not the fault of Franco. He did his part as the leadoff man that inning. He also showed in this series that his approach at the plate may be rectifying itself, and perhaps the base knocks were the result of that.
Now, let’s see if he carries that success into this weekend’s series against the Washington Nationals.