NEW YORK — The Phillies need at least one more bat.
Monday's extra-inning loss in Game 1 of the Phils' doubleheader vs. the Mets can be attributed to several things (see first take), but the lack of punch off the bench was what stuck out most.
Aaron Altherr pinch-hit for Zach Eflin in the sixth inning and grounded into a double play. The Phils have just a four-man bench and were not about to use Jorge Alfaro in a pinch-hitting spot in Game 1 of a doubleheader, so that effectively left Gabe Kapler with just Jesmuel Valentin and Dylan Cozens.
Both failed to come through in a high-leverage spot. Valentin pinch-hit with one out after the Phillies loaded the bases on walks in the eighth inning. After working a full count, he struck out.
Two innings later, the Phillies put the first two men on base before Cozens ultimately pinch-hit with two outs. He struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch.
All the Phils needed in the eighth inning was a medium-deep fly ball. All they needed in the 10th was a bloop hit. Valentin isn't exactly the type to drive the ball consistently, at least not yet at the major-league level. Cozens' penchant for swinging and missing is well-documented.
A month or two from now, the Phillies will likely have better bench options because they should be able to add a piece or two ahead of either the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline or both.
Kapler reaffirmed his confidence in his bench players after the Game 1 loss, making note of Valentin's clutchness earlier this season.
"I believe in all of our players," the manager said. "I will continue to believe in our players. We've had some big at-bats from Val and some big hits. He's actually won us some games with some big clutch hitting."
Indeed, Valentin helped the Phillies win a game on June 23 when he untied things against the Nationals with a seventh-inning sac fly. It's not that he's an incapable player, he's just not the ideal second man off the bench for a contending team.
The Franco factor
The Phillies have been connected to several hitters on the trade market. Acquiring someone like Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas or Adrian Beltre could push Maikel Franco to the bench if he's not also moved. That would be one way to upgrade the bench.
Franco, by the way, is up to .273/.320/.458 on the season after a hot few weeks. As crazy as this sounds, he's three points behind Odubel Herrera for the team lead in batting average.
Franco has thrived since moving to the eight-hole. In six games since Kapler moved him down, Franco has gone 9 for 19 with a double, a homer and three walks. It's prompted some to call for Franco to move back up in the order, but Kapler likes the current setup.
"I really like him in that spot," Kapler said. "I like that he's kind of forced to be patient with the pitcher behind him. He's not always going to get something to hit early in the count. Sometimes, they are going to be considering the fact that the pitcher is behind him. And so, therefore, they are going to force him to see the ball a little bit longer. And I'm not saying one thing has led to the other. I just kind of like him there and we'll see how this works going forward."