Phillies

Youngsters help Phillies steamroll Jacob deGrom, Mets at Citi Field

Youngsters help Phillies steamroll Jacob deGrom, Mets at Citi Field

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NEW YORK — Ben Lively crashed J.P. Crawford's coming-out party Tuesday night and no one had a problem with it.

Lively pitched seven innings of one-run ball and drove in four runs with a two-run single and a swing-hard-and-something-good-might-happen, two-run home run to lead the Phillies to a 9-1 victory over the New York Mets at Citi Field (see observations).

Both of Lively's big hits came against Jacob deGrom, who has been an absolute beast against the Phillies for much of his career. The hard-throwing, floppy-haired right-hander entered the game with a 6-0 record and a 2.10 ERA in 10 career starts against the Phillies, including 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in three starts this year.

It all changed Tuesday night. DeGrom gave up 10 hits and a career-high nine runs (three were unearned) in 3 2/3 innings, the second-shortest outing of his career. And this was after striking out the side in the first inning.

"It's nice to beat deGrom," manager Pete Mackanin said. "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best."

Though the Phillies entered the game with the worst record in the majors — watch out, the San Francisco Giants are gaining in the race for the No. 1 draft pick — this was still a satisfying win.

"This was a unique game in that every player on the team, including the pitcher, scored at least one run and had a hit," Mackanin said. "That was kind of neat."

The game also offered a potential glimpse of the future. With the highly touted Crawford having arrived earlier in the day (see story), the Phillies' starting lineup featured five players, Lively included, who opened the season at Triple A and are considered building blocks for the future. They all contributed:

Lively, of course, did it with his arm and his bat.

Rhys Hoskins had a single, a double and two walks to run his on-base percentage to .436 in 26 games.

Nick Williams had a three-run double, giving him 38 RBIs since coming up on June 30.

Catcher Jorge Alfaro had three hits to raise his batting average to .362 in 58 at-bats.

And, on his first night in the majors, the 22-year-old Crawford contributed, as well. He had his first big-league hit, scored a run and made a couple of nice plays at third base.

"These guys, great teammates, made me feel welcome from the get-go," Crawford said. "Right when I got here they made me feel at home and I can't thank them enough to kind of settle down the nerves before the game and just have fun out there.

"It was a dream come true. Stepping onto the field, looking around, I thought to myself, like, man, I'm really here. I've been working on it for so long. Just to finally live the dream. I can't wait to get started."

Crawford is a shortstop by trade and likely is the Phillies' shortstop of the future. But for now, he is getting reps at third base as Maikel Franco and his .223 batting average and .278 on-base percentage take a seat. Mackanin said Crawford would likely be back at third base on Wednesday night as the Phillies look for players that will make them better in the future.

The players involved in Tuesday night's win thought they provided a little peek at the future.

"Definitely," Crawford said. "We've been talking about that since Double A. Just to be here in this moment with everyone together, back together and hopefully sooner or later everyone comes back and stays healthy and we can do some damage later on."

Surrounded by players he'd been with in the minors, Lively was overwhelmed by a feeling of what might be down the road.

"Absolutely," he said. "You can't deny that. Having J.P. up here, I told him it fired me up having him hand me the ball from third base. It's awesome."

"It's nice to see a lot of young guys in the lineup," Mackanin said. "Every little bit helps. It gives everybody a little spurt of energy going down the stretch. It's nice to see. The guys swung the bats well. They played a good game."

Ironically, no one swung the bat better than Lively. He had zero hits in 16 Triple A at-bats this season and last and now has six hits, including two homers, in 21 big-league at-bats this season.

"I still laugh about not having a hit in Triple A," he said. "It's pretty funny. I hit pretty good in high school and had a couple of schools look at me as a third baseman, but the pitching route has worked out pretty well."

Lively's two-run homer in the fourth came against a deGrom slider and cleared the wall in right-center.

"I hit it pretty good," the rookie pitcher said with a laugh. "Right when I hit it I was like, 'Ooh, that's hit pretty good.'"

As much as Mackanin liked the home run, he liked this more: Lively delivered his eighth quality start (six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs) in 11 outings.

"He's just a battler," Mackanin said. "He's a true competitor. He wants to win. He wants to be good. He goes right after hitters. He doesn't screw around with them. He gives it his best shot. He takes his chances. That's what I like."

Report linking Padres to Maikel Franco seems like no coincidence

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Report linking Padres to Maikel Franco seems like no coincidence

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It doesn't seem like a coincidence that Ken Rosenthal's report of the Padres' interest in Maikel Franco came after Franco's best game of the season Saturday.

Franco has been available for quite a while and no team has bit. Saturday, a few hours after Franco went 4 for 4 with three key hits and scored twice (see story), Rosenthal reported San Diego's interest.

While one 4-for-4 game won't sway a front office, the Padres do make sense as a Franco destination. They won't be competing for a little while, they don't run high payrolls and they have an unsettled 3B situation. 

Second-year third baseman Christian Villanueva has hit 16 home runs in 230 plate appearances for San Diego this season (including a major-league-best 11 vs. lefties) but he's batting .230 with a .300 OBP and has hit .173 since May 2.

Power, .230 batting average, .300 OBP ... sounds like Franco, doesn't it?

Gabe Kapler talked on Friday about the "fixes" the Phils need to see from Franco (see story), namely putting the ball in the air more. It's strange, but for a player who swings and misses and chases bad pitches as much as Franco, he does not strike out much. Since the start of 2016, 92 percent of major-leaguers have a higher strikeout rate.

Yet when Franco makes contact, it's often been weak contact. Groundballs to the left side. Pop flies to the shallow outfield. The Phillies want him to get away from that and focus on driving the ball more. Perhaps that will mean a few more K's as a result, but they'll take it if it's accompanied by more consistent pop.

Replacing Franco
The Phillies right now wouldn't trade Franco without first having a ready-made replacement. Maybe that's Adrian Beltre, maybe it's Royals rental 3B Mike Moustakas. 

But if the Phils don't first acquire a third baseman, it would make no sense for a team in contention to trade away its starting third baseman while J.P. Crawford is on the DL.

They're not going to move Franco only to replace him with Mitch Walding.

Potential return from Padres
In Rosenthal's report, he mentions San Diego relievers Brad Hand, Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen.

First things first, you're not getting Brad Hand straight up for Maikel Franco. That's crazy talk. Hand, a lefty, has been one of baseball's best relievers the last three seasons, posting a 2.53 ERA in 189 appearances with 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He led MLB in games pitched in 2016, made the All-Star team in 2017 and leads the NL in saves this season.

Hand is one of San Diego's best trade assets, if not its best. The Padres would be looking for more in return than a third baseman with a .300 career OBP who is an average-at-best defender.

Yates, a righty, is having by far the best season of his five-year career. He has a 0.90 ERA in 30 innings with 36 strikeouts. Prior to 2018, he had a 4.78 career ERA and was extremely homer-prone.

Stammen, who Phillies fans will remember from his days with the Nationals (2009-15), has reestablished himself as a setup man in San Diego. He has a 2.02 ERA this season with impressive strikeout and walk rates. Last season, he did it over a full year, posting a 3.14 ERA in 80⅓ innings.

Hand is too much for the Padres to give up for Franco, but from a Phillies perspective, neither Yates nor Stammen should be enough. Neither setup man would change the complexion of the Phils' bullpen. Neither Yates nor Stammen would come here and be viewed as more reliable than a Tommy Hunter, for example. The fact that both are under control past this season helps, but the Phils have talent in the bullpen, even if it's struggled in June. 

Perhaps one of those relievers and a minor-leaguer of intrigue would get a deal done, but it seems unlikely the Phils would part with Franco straight up for a successful reliever with a brief track record.

And lastly, as trustworthy as Rosenthal is, this could be an example of wishful thinking on the part of someone in the Phillies' front office, leaking a little info to a well-known reporter to drum up interest in Franco after his best game of the season.

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Padres reportedly interested in trading for Phillies' Maikel Franco

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Padres reportedly interested in trading for Phillies' Maikel Franco

Despite his big day in the Phillies' win Saturday afternoon (see story), Maikel Franco's future with the Phillies is uncertain. According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, we know there's at least one team interested in trading for him.

Rosenthal reports that the Padres have interest in Franco, but says there's one important condition that would need to be met before a trade could occur. 

"For a deal to happen, the Phillies would need to acquire someone else to play short or third," Rosenthal notes.

That's because J.P. Crawford, who had been playing at third, is out with a fractured left hand. It appears that a combination of Franco, Jesmuel Valentin and recently acquired utility man Danny Espinosa will share the playing time at third for the time being.

Franco's role has recently diminished (see story), so you'd think the Phillies would probably be open to discussions with the Padres and any other interested parties, especially given their reported interest in Adrian Beltre.  

As for what the Phillies would want from the Padres, Rosenthal reports, "The Phillies undoubtedly would add to Franco to get one of the Padres' top relievers, while the Padres would be gambling on Franco returning to form knowing he has three more years of control." 

The Padres have several relievers who could interest the Phillies. Lefty closer Brad Hand has an NL-leading 21 saves in 24 opportunities, while veterans Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen are having strong seasons.

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