By Michael Donovan
Maikel Franco ripped a three-run homer to left-center in the first inning to give the Phillies a three-run lead yesterday against the Mets.
It was Franco’s third home run in as many games against the Mets, giving him a team-high 25.
“I was talking with Freddy [Galvis] and Whitey [Andres Blanco] the first day when I came in,” said Franco, who is now 6-for-14 with three homers and eight RBIs in this series. “I just told them, it’s something you can’t control sometimes. Now I’m seeing the ball really good and I’m just putting good contact on the ball and the ball flies. That’s what it is. Just try to go out there, see a good pitch to hit and put good contact on it.”
Franco is hitting .253 with 23 doubles, one triple, 25 homers, 87 RBIs and a .738 OPS in 601 plate appearances, but he entered the night with a .731 OPS, which ranked 18th out of 20 qualified third basemen. His OPS dipped to .690 in late June and he has been playing catch up ever since.
Franco hit .280 with 22 doubles, one triple, 14 home runs, 50 RBIs and an .840 OPS in 335 plate appearances last season, so many people expected more from him in 2016. Manager Pete Mackanin has said Franco might be trying too hard to live up to the hype. General manager Matt Klentak simply believes Franco is is a young player still learning the game.
“We have to remember he’s 23 years old,” Klentak said this summer. “It’s not just to quote an age. By itself that doesn’t mean anything. But there are players making their Major League debuts this year that are top industry prospects that are already 24, and he’s got parts of three seasons under his belt already. It’s reasonable to expect players at that age at this level are going to continue to make adjustments and get better.”
Franco singled and scored a run in the fourth as the Phillies took a 10-0 lead with Darin Ruf’s three-run homer, but some sloppy defense helped the Mets score four unearned runs in the fifth. Despite the Mets removing Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson in the fifth, they cut the lead to two and had the potential winning run at the plate with one out in the ninth.
“That’s the kind of game that you get anxious a little bit,” Franco said. “They kept battling all night long. We were up 10-0 and they never gave up. They showed a lot of energy. This type of game — I’m glad we won today.”
Franco would be happy if he finished the season strong, too. He is on the right track.
“You think about it, with [Odubel] Herrera coming on and swinging the bat well, and Franco swinging the bat better, our offense is a lot better,” Mackanin said. “We’ve missed those guys for about a month.”