Saturday night was a night of hope for the Phillies.
Sure, they lost a sloppy affair to the lowly Braves, but wins and losses aren't what matter in a rebuild.
What does matter is the Phillies got seven strong innings from starter Vince Velasquez. Velasquez reached his innings limit and will not pitch again in 2016, but the hard-throwing 24-year-old offered us a glimpse of his potential.
On the offensive side, third baseman Maikel Franco had a big night at the plate. The 24-year-old Dominican went 4 for 5 with three doubles. More importantly, he scorched the ball in all five at-bats.
"Good to see Franco get four hits," manager Pete Mackanin said after the loss. "He's swinging the bat a lot better. Hopefully that'll get him going and he'll help us in the middle of that lineup."
Like Velasquez, Franco has shown glimpses of the kind of player he could be. During his rookie season, Franco hit .280 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs in 80 games. He's been a little less consistent in the average department during his sophomore season (.250) but his power numbers have been there (22 homers, 73 RBIs).
Consistency has been the issue. Saturday night was his first multi-hit game since Aug. 21. It can be maddening watching Franco have a night like he did Saturday and then watch him the next game dive at breaking pitches low and out of the zone. Franco knows it. He expects more from himself.
"(I've) been up and down too much," Franco said when asked to assess his season. "I understand the situation. I have to just keep learning more, get better. Do everything that I can possible."
In the top of the fourth, Franco made a highlight reel defensive play. Braves catcher Tyler Flowers scorched a ball in the hole. Franco ranged to his left, dove and delivered a strike to first base to get Flowers.
Then Franco made a costly error late in the game during Atlanta's comeback. Setup man Hector Neris induced a foul pop up by the visitors' dugout to start the eighth inning with the Phillies clinging to a one-run lead. Franco and catcher Cameron Rupp converged on the ball. It hit Franco's glove and then hit the ground. Chase d'Arnaud would go on to walk and score the tying run.
Like with any promising young ball player, you just have to take the good with the bad.
"That's just one of things," Mackanin said of the misplayed pop up. "He's played very good defense for us. He made a great play, ball to his left (earlier in the game). Things like that happen."
Franco's season can in some ways be looked at as a disappointment. His OPS is 40 points lower than it was last season. Pitchers have adjusted to him, giving him a steady diet of low breaking balls. Franco has proven to be extremely susceptible to spinners in the dirt.
Still, with 27 games left in the season, Franco has time to get hot and, like Velasquez, end the season on a high note.
"Just try to go out there every single day, try to just have a good game," Franco said."Help my teammates and try to finish strong."
A night like Saturday gives Mackanin hope his young third baseman is on track. Franco set the bar high last year. Mackanin wants to see him back at that level.
"Last year he hit .280," Mackanin said. "I expect him to hit at least .280. He had a little bit of an off year in that respect but he's certainly a very aggressive hitter. I like aggressive hitters. Today was a great day to see from him. Even that last [at-bat], he could have had a hit there."