MLB

Phillies bolster bench with addition of Trevor Plouffe; Dylan Cozens returns to Triple A

Phillies bolster bench with addition of Trevor Plouffe; Dylan Cozens returns to Triple A

NEW YORK — The Phillies made an in-house move in an attempt to upgrade their bench before Tuesday night’s game against the New York Mets.

The Phils added veteran infielder Trevor Plouffe to their roster and sent outfielder Dylan Cozens back to Triple A. To clear room for Plouffe on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated lefty reliever Hoby Milner for assignment.

Plouffe, 32, is a veteran of eight big-league seasons, mostly with the Minnesota Twins. He signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies early in the season and was hitting .240 with 11 homers, 33 RBIs and a .839 OPS in 60 games at Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Plouffe is primarily a third baseman. He has also played first base and second base. He is a career .242 hitter with 105 big-league homers and a .714 OPS.

The move to add Plouffe comes a day after Phillies pinch-hitters were 0 for 3 (double play, two strikeouts) in a 4-3 loss in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader against the Mets. All of those at-bats came with runners on base. 

Entering Tuesday, Phillies pinch-hitters — subtracting Nick Williams — were 14 for 96 (.146) with two homers and 10 RBIs. Williams was 10 for 21 with three homers and eight RBIs.

Cozens, 24, is a power-hitting prospect who needs to improve his contact skills. He is not going to do that sitting on the Phillies’ bench. He will return to Triple A and get regular at-bats. He was 2 for 18 with a homer in limited duty with the Phils. He struck out 12 times and walked just three.

The Phillies will continue to look to bolster their bench before the July 31 trade deadline.

In another move, the Phillies officially activated pitcher Enyel De Los Santos, Tuesday night’s starting pitcher. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, infielder Pedro Florimon was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

More on the Phillies

Manny Machado who? Phillies can go a season-high 10 games over .500 thanks to Maikel Franco's big save

Manny Machado who? Phillies can go a season-high 10 games over .500 thanks to Maikel Franco's big save

BOX SCORE

The Baltimore Orioles are in town and the spotlight is shining on stud infielder Manny Machado because, well, you know why. He will likely be traded soon and the Phillies want him, either now or in the offseason when he becomes one of the prizes of the free-agent market.

Maikel Franco has had many chances over the last couple of seasons to dissuade Phillies management from pursuing Machado, but he hasn’t done that simply because he has been too inconsistent in the field and at the plate. Machado is playing shortstop for the Orioles these days, but he could end up at third base long term if the Phillies were ever able to land him.

For now, Franco is at the position, and wouldn’t you know it: On a night when so much attention was on the possible future third baseman, the current third baseman saved the game and helped the Phillies lock down a 3-2 win over the Orioles at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night (see first take).

Franco made a defensive gem — a dive to his right and a throw from his knees — with the bases loaded to end the top of the eighth inning.

Technically, Seranthony Dominguez got the save.

Franco deserved one, too.

“What a tremendous play,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “That was obviously the play of the game and got us the win.”

There were other standouts. Rhys Hoskins and Andrew Knapp drove in all of the Phillies’ runs with two-out, extra-base hits. Dominguez struck out the final two batters of the game with a runner on second. And Zach Eflin, winner of six straight starts, continued to shine with seven innings of two-run ball.

But it all goes for naught if Franco doesn’t make his game-saving play on lefty-hitting Chris Davis’ ground ball in the eighth.

“Mikey played his ass off,” Eflin said. “That play was awesome.”

Franco was shaded toward second in the shift and Davis tried to find a hole. If the ball had gotten through, the Orioles would have scored two runs and taken the lead. Franco’s snuff-out play helped the Phillies improve to nine games over .500. They can go to a season-high 10 over with a win Wednesday.

“I wanted that play so bad,” Franco said. “I know it’s a tough inning. Bases loaded. If I make that play, I maybe save the game.”

He did. Franco threw from his knees to first baseman Carlos Santana. The Phillies held their breath when the play was reviewed to see if Santana kept his foot on the bag. He did.

After uncorking the throw to Santana, Franco punched the ground in triumph.

“I got excited,” he said. “I just tried to do everything I could with that play. I was fortunate to make a good play. That’s good for us.”

Franco’s time with the Phillies appears to be dwindling. It’s clear that he’s being phased out of the team’s plans. He has lost playing time over the last month or so and been dropped in the batting order. The Phillies are seeking a temporary upgrade at third, in case they have to wait until the offseason for Machado, and Franco could be traded away this month.

He knows that.

He also knows that the team and the fans covet Machado.

But Franco plays on.

“I don’t think about it,” he said. “I just come in every single day and do everything I can do. Try to live day to day and not think about what’s going to happen. Try to just be in my moment and after that whatever happens happens.”

What happened Tuesday night was the Phillies won again and Franco got the save.

More on the Phillies

Phillies notch rain-soaked win over Orioles behind Zach Eflin's strong outing

Phillies notch rain-soaked win over Orioles behind Zach Eflin's strong outing

BOX SCORE

After fueling optimism for the second half of the season by playing .500 ball over a rugged 42-game stretch that matched them against a number of top contenders, the Phillies on Tuesday night began a 13-game sprint to the All-Star break against teams with losing records.

Before commencing the stretch with a game against the Baltimore Orioles, baseball’s worst team, manager Gabe Kapler warned, “If we take any team lightly, we’ll get our asses kicked.”

The Phillies did not take the Orioles lightly Tuesday night, but they still had to battle. In the end, they came away with a 3-2 win thanks to another strong starting pitching performance from Zach Eflin, a pair of two-out extra-base hits from Rhys Hoskins and Andrew Knapp and a game-saving defensive play from third baseman Maikel Franco in the eighth (see story).

The win improved the Phillies to 46-37. A win in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon would push the Phillies to a season-high 10 games over .500.

The start of the game was delayed one hour, 25 minutes by rain that continued throughout most of the game. 

Eflin became the first Phillies’ starter since Cliff Lee in 2011 to win six straight starts as he pitched two-run ball over seven innings. He gave up five hits, walked none and struck out six. One of the hits that Eflin gave up was a ringing first-pitch homer to Mark Trumbo leading off the second inning. Trumbo was sitting fastball and got one, 94.5 mph. The ball came off the bat at 113 miles per hour and jetted over the center-field wall. The homer was the first Eflin had allowed since May 30. He did not allow a homer in five starts in June. He went 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in that month.

Trumbo’s homer gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead. The Phillies went ahead in the third on a two-out, two-run double by Hoskins. The RBIs were the 99th and 100th of Hoskins’ career and they came in his 124th game. No Phillie has gotten to 100 RBIs quicker. Hall of Famer Chuck Klein had the previous team record. He reached 100 RBIs in his 143rd career game in 1929.

The Orioles tied the game with a run against Eflin in the fourth, but the Phils retook the lead for good on a two-out RBI triple by Knapp, the hero of Sunday’s extra-innings win over Washington.

Though Eflin was at an economical 82 pitches through seven innings, manager Kapler lifted him for pinch-hitter Dylan Cozens in the bottom of the seventh. Cozens struck out against Baltimore starter Alex Cobb and the Phillies got nothing in the inning.

The bullpen got the final six outs. Tommy Hunter got two in the eighth before handing off to Seranthony Dominguez with a runner on base. The hard-throwing right-hander pitched into a bases-loaded jam with a pair of walks and needed a huge assist from Franco to get out of trouble. Franco, shaded toward second base, made a terrific diving play to take away a hit from Chris Davis. Had the ball gone through, it would have scored two runs and the Orioles would have taken the lead.

Dominguez came back out for the ninth and got three outs, including the last two with the potential tying run on second base, to record the save. He threw 28 pitches.

More on the Phillies