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August 02, 2016

Altherr, Franco power Phils to wild win over Bumgarner, Giants

Aaron Altherr celebrated his first plate appearance in South Philly in 2016 in style. He hit the second pitch from San Francisco Giants ace and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner into the right field seats for a two-run home run.

An inning later, Maikel Franco collected his 20th home run of the season off the four-time All-Star, too.

The Phillies scored eight runs off Bumgarner (only four were earned). It was the first time in more than three years that Bumgarner had been charged with at least eight runs in a start.

Yet, somehow, the game was tied at eight entering the eighth.

After he delivered that masterful three-hit shutout in Pittsburgh two Fridays ago, rookie Zach Eflin has given up 13 runs on 15 hits (including three home runs) in the 10 innings he’s pitched since, with more walks (seven) than strikeouts (five).

The Phillies had Bumgarner beat but their own pitcher picked a bad time for a rookie mulligan he couldn’t take. It was enough to send one fan behind home plate over the edge, saying something that was vulgar enough (which apparently was just “you suck!”) that made home plate umpire Bob Davidson stop play, walk over to talk with the vocal, angry adult, eventually leading to a meeting between and the usher and fan, and the fan walking out of the ballpark.

He missed a wild finish to a weird game.

Altherr celebrated his first game at Citizens Bank Park in 2016 in style. With the game knotted at eight, he ripped a two-run single back up the middle off Sergio Romo to lead the Phillies to a 13-8 win over the Giants.

"Whatever I can do to help the team win, that’s what I’m all about," Altherr said. "Just glad I was able to come through there and help the team win."

Altherr, activated Thursday following a four-month-long stint on the DL following left wrist surgery, finished the night 3-for-5 with three runs scored, five RBI, and a stolen base. Franco (4-for-4, four RBI, three runs) and Cesar Hernandez (4-for-5, three runs) each had four hits.

Altherr, however, got the offense going with the home run off one of the best pitchers in baseball.

“I just wanted to put good swings on the ball and I happened to barrel a couple up and put the first one out," he said. "Definitely a great feeling, especially off a pitcher like Bumgarner. Don’t want to try to do too much against him, just try to put a good swing on the ball."

After Odubel Herrera hit a one-out, infield single off new Giants reliever Will Smith, Hernandez followed with a double off the wall in right, putting two runners in scoring position for Altherr. And Altherr delivered.

"Altherr is making a good impression again," manager Pete Mackanin said of the toolsy outfielder who impressed with his first extended chance in the big leagues last August. "He's swinging the bat very well right now. That last at bat he was just trying to make contact, he hit the ball up the middle and got us two big runs."

Cameron Rupp put an exclamation point on the eighth-inning rally with a three-run home run. It was the third three-run home run of the night, following Franco’s in the second inning and Brandon Belt’s game-tying blow in a forgettable five-run fifth inning for Eflin.

The Giants saved Bumgarner, but they couldn’t solve Altherr. The Phillies will send Aaron Nola to the mound on Wednesday night hoping to win back-to-back games for the first time in nearly a month, when they won four straight from July 3-6.

 Maikel Franco's four hits tied a career high (his last four-hit game was at Yankee Stadium on June 22, 2015). He is the first Phillies third baseman to hit 20 home runs in a season since Scott Rolen hit 25 in 2001. 

With 54 games remaining on the Phillies schedule, Franco has a decent shot at becoming just the third Phillies third baseman to hit 30 home runs, joining Rolen (1998) and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. Schmidt had a whopping 11 seasons with at least 30 home runs: 1974-77, '79-84, '87. 

 Cesar Hernandez has had a lot of success since he's learned to hit the ball on the ground more regularly, utilizing his best tool (speed) to leg out infield singles. Among his four hits on Tuesday was Hernandez's Major League-leading 10th bunt hit of the season. 

  Hernandez has a total of 23 infield hits this season, tied with former Phillies prospect and current Milwaukee infielder Jonathan Villar for the most in the National League. The Phillies have a total of 99 infield hits this season (Odubel Herrera's sparked the eighth-inning rally on Tuesday); only St. Louis has more, with 104 infield hits.

  Hernandez is hitting .386 (44-for-114) in 31 games since June 27, raising a .253/.299/.346 slash line to .296/.382/.351 on the season.

  "He looks good there, closing in on .300, giving us good at-bats," Mackanin said. "He's changed his approach a little bit, getting on top of the ball. He's keeping it out of the air for the most part."

  • Home plate umpire Bob Davidson said after the game that he asked for the aforementioned unruly fan to be dismissed because there were young fans around the area. He said he received a positive reception for taking matters into his own hands: "People cheered me, which is unusual in this town for me.”

  But what exactly was it that led to him calling for the ejection of the fan? 

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