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June 07, 2015

Francoeur comes through in the clutch to help Phillies avoid sweep

His two-out, pinch-hit double put the Phillies ahead for good in the seventh

Phillies MLB
060715_Francoeur_AP Chris Szagola/AP

Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur celebrates the Phillies 6-4 win over the Giants.

They needed that one.

After losing 10 of their last 12 games, the Phillies got a much needed win on Sunday, beating the Giants, 6-4, at Citizens Bank Park to avoid a weekend sweep at the hands of the reigning World Series champions. 

Jeff Francoeur delivered the game-winning hit Sunday against the Giants, a day removed from hitting a grand slam off Madison Bumgarner. With Ben Revere getting the start in right field and Odubel Herrera* in center, Francoeur came on to pinch hit for Herrera with two outs in the seventh, and delivered the go-ahead hit with a two-run double.

*Herrera didn't have a bad day himself, going 1-for-3 with a long home run to right center field.

For Frenchy, a seasoned veteran at just 31 years old, his .258 average is his best since 2011, when he hit .285 with 20 home runs in 158 games with the Royals. After spending most of last season in the minors, Francoeur didn't hide his emotions when asked if he appreciated the chance he's been given with the Phillies this season.

  • While Francoeur is third on the team in RBI, he's knocking in runs at a higher rate than the two players above him. But he's no Maikel Franco...
  • Franco        5.44 (16 RBI in 87 ABs)
  • Francoeur   6.20 (20 RBI in 124 ABs)
  • Howard       7.11 (27 RBI in 192 ABs)
  • Utley           7.38 (24 RBI in 177 ABs)

"Oh, hell yeah -- excuse my language -- but absolutely," he said after the game. "I say every time I get a chance to put on a big-league uniform right now I go out there and grind it out and enjoy the moment. Because as good as it is right now, it can get bad. And so you enjoy each moment and work your butt off."

One of the things that has made him so valuable is his ability to hit lefties -- he's hitting .293 with nine RBI in 41 ABs against them as opposed to .241 against righties. According to the Phillies outfielder, that's been a big focus for him this year.

"When I came here, the one thing I wanted to do was make sure I hit lefties," said Francoeur, who has been playing his best ball over the last week.

Since May 30, he's hitting .363 (8-for-22) with seven RBI, two doubles, and a home run* while striking out just three times. But it isn't just the work he's been putting in on the field that makes him so popular in the clubhouse; he's just a good dude. 

*Not just any home run, but a grand slam off MadBum.

So much so, that Sean O'Sullivan had to wait for Francoeur to finish up with reporters before he could get his turn over with, prompting the Phillies starter to jokingly yell something like, "Man, he can really keep an audience." 

That kind of attitude was one of things manager Ryne Sandberg liked most about Francoeur during spring training.

"I was impressed with his makeup, and his character, and the way he went about his business," Sandberg about his first impressions in Clearwater. "And the way that other players would gravitate to him -- in a positive way -- and talk baseball and talk about the game that day. I think that was the first thing that stuck out."

Here are some more observations from the game:

With a little help from the 'pen

Following Saturday's 7-5 loss to the Giants, I wrote about the fact that the Phillies had allowed four or more earned runs in 12 straight games, tied for the fourth-longest such streak since 1914 (as far back as's Play Index goes.)

That streak was ended Sunday -- the fourth and final run, surrendered by Papelbon, was an unearned run -- thanks in large part to a quality start from righty Sean O'Sullivan. And because of some timely hitting from Jeff Francoeur, the Phillies were able to pick up the win.

Here's a look back at how they've done over that stretch [Hint: Not well]:

• at Nationals: Loss, 1-4
• at Mets: Loss, 3-6
• at Mets: Loss, 4-5
• at Mets: Loss, 0-7
• vs. Rockies: Loss, 1-4
• vs. Rockies: Loss, 2-5
• vs. Rockies: Loss, 1-4
• vs. Reds: Win, 5-4
• vs. Reds: Win, 5-4
• vs. Reds: Loss, 4-6
• vs. Giants: Loss, 4-5
• vs. Giants: Loss, 7-5
• vs. Giants: Win, 6-4 (only allowed 3 ER)

In six innings of work, O'Sullivan held the Giants to three runs, despite allowing seven hits, two walks and failing to strike out a batter. If you weren't paying attention -- and I don't blame you if that's the case -- the 27-year-old has been doing a pretty good job keeping the Phillies in games.

But like the other two starters whose last names don't begin with an "H" -- Severino Gonzalez and Jerome Williams --  O'Sullivan hasn't been effective at pitching deep into games. His six inning effort on Sunday matched his season high.

Following Saturday's game in which Gonzalez failed to make it out the third inning, manager Ryne Sandberg talked about the toll that takes on your bullpen, adding it's "why you use the whole 'pen."

Luckily for the Phillies, Sandberg has been getting decent production from his relievers. In the last 19.2* innings, the bullpen had allowed just one earned run. That's been critical for the team, helping them stay in games, even if they aren't winning them all.

*Again, Papelbon allowed the Giants to score a meaningless run in the bottom of the ninth, but that was unearned.

Just for good measure

Not that he needed to, but Maikel Franco hit yet another late-inning home run. For those keeping score at home, that's his sixth homer since being recalled on May 15 and his FOURTH in the last six games.

After going 2-for-4 Sunday with an RBI and a pair of runs scored, Franco's average is up to .253 on the season. He also s

It was quite a week for the 22-year-old third baseman:


It had to end some time

Freddy Galvis entered play Sunday in the middle of a horrendous 0-for-29 slump. It's part of a greater regression we've seen from the young shortstop lately, one that has seen his average dip nearly 100 points in a few short weeks. 

After starting the game 0-for-2, Galvis finally broke out of that slump in the seventh inning with a leadoff single, one that would prove to be crucial in the Phillies' effort to avoid being swept by the Giants. 

Galvis' average now sits at .264 after finishing the day 1-for-4 with a single and run scored.

Almost a costly decision

In the top of the third, just after the Phillies took their first lead of the game on Cody Asche's two-run double, the Phillies had another one of those innings where they surrendered a lead immediately after taking it.

After Angel Pagan's RBI double tied the game at 2-2 with one out in the third, Freddy Galvis took a Buster Posey grounder in the hole at shortstop, and instead of getting the force at first, he decided to try to get Pagan, the lead runner, at third.

After originally being ruled out, the call was overturned on replay, leaving the Giants with runners on the corners and one out, rather than a man on third with two outs. Brandon Belt then hit a grounder to Chase Utley at second, but it was too slow for them to turn the double play, allowing Pagan to score from third. 

Sure, hindsight is 20/20 and there's no way of knowing if things would have played out exactly the same way, but had Galvis just thrown to first on Posey's grounder, there would have been two outs, meaning Belt's grounder to Utley would have almost certainly ended the inning. 

Mired in the aforementioned 0-for-31 slump at the time, Galvis needed to do all he could in the field to make up for suddenly abysmal performance at the plate.

And because the baseball gods have a strange sense of humor, Galvis atoned for his earlier transgression by leading off the bottom of the 7th inning with a single and scoring the go-ahead run on Jeff Francoeur's two-out, two-run double that put the Phillies up 5-3 over the Giants.

Why Brown's staying down

Jake Kaplan of The Philadelphia Inquirer had a good story on Phillies IronPigs outfielder Domonic Brown, who was an MLB All Star in 2013, but now can't seem to play his way out of the minors. 

On Friday, GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. said that the 27-year-old is "not ready yet to be back in the big leagues" but when he is the team plans to bring him back up. Amaro also added that he hopes to recall Brown at some point this season, but at the current rate, that may not come to fruition.

More from Kaplan:

Including his original rehab assignment, during which he struggled at the plate, Brown entered this weekend hitting just .250 in 176 total at-bats with Lehigh Valley, .272 over May and the first three games of June. He had yet to homer and was slugging a dismal .307. Eight doubles and a triple highlight his season statistics. Opposing pitchers are smart enough to not give him anything to hit on the inner half of the plate. He must make adjustments.
If a change-of-scenery trade would be best for both Brown and the Phillies, the player is certainly not accruing any value toiling in Allentown. Brown, after all these years, is still only 27 years old. Keeping him in the minors accomplishes little, if anything.  []

Unfortunately for Brown and the Phillies, there doesn't seem to be a guaranteed everyday spot on the big-league lineup card for him -- especially given his struggles at triple-A this season -- unless, of course, he turns it around (and quickly).

"With Domonic it's really about if he's ready to be our everyday rightfielder, and right now we don't see it that way," Amaro said. "He may feel differently, and that's fine and he should. That's the nature of being an athlete and someone who's participated and played well here at the major-league level.
"I think at some point he will be. I think he's making progress. It's just a matter of dotting some I's and crossing some T's as far as his continued work down there."  []

I wonder if those T's and I's are the ones found, say, in the word "hit."

Gonzalez optioned

After the game, the Phillies announced that they have optioned starter Severino Gonzalez to triple-A Lehigh Valley and will make a corresponding move on Monday.