Yes, Maikel Franco hits eighth in the Phillies’ lineup. But that doesn’t mean he’s a, you know, No. 8 hitter. He profiles as a middle-of-the-order, drive-the-ball-for-power hitter who, in this lineup, just so happens to hit eighth because the front office went out this winter and added new bats at the Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 spots.
So when Franco comes up with the bases loaded and his team down a run late in the game, he has the mindset of a middle-of-the-order hitter.
“Get a good pitch that I can drive,” he said.
Franco did just that in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday night. His three-run double to the gap in right-center brought the Phils back from a run down and helped propel them to a 7-3 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Franco, who has spent the bulk of the season hitting eighth, is tied with cleanup man Rhys Hoskins for the team lead with 25 RBIs.
Hoskins clubbed his team-best ninth home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Phils some breathing room. They had scored one or zero runs in five of their previous nine games so putting seven on the board — six in their last two at-bats — qualified as a mini explosion.
“It was a good team win,” said Aaron Nola, who pitched 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball but did not figure in the decision. “We came up later in the game and started scoring some runs and put it to them.”
The Phils’ offense was sluggish again in the first six innings. If there was a flashpoint for the offense it was J.T. Realmuto’s one-out double in the seventh. A hit batsman and a single by Cesar Hernandez loaded the bases for the Phillies’ very dangerous No. 8 hitter.
Franco had been mired in an 0-for-10 funk before he stroked a high sinker from Victor Alcantara to right-center to clear the bases.
“I know I was 0 for 10,” Franco said. “But I try not to think too much, just try to go out there and do the best for my team. It was a good situation for me and I had success.”
Franco has had 48 career at-bats with the bases loaded. He has driven in 44 runs in those situations. Twenty-three of Franco’s 25 RBIs this season have come out of the No. 8 spot.
If the Phillies had traded for Manny Machado last July or signed him this winter, Franco would not be here. He heard all the rumors. He knew he was the Phillies’ Plan B, maybe even Plan C or D, at third base coming into spring training. Heck, there was a time last season when he was benched so the Phillies could gauge J.P. Crawford’s ability to play third base.
Through it all, the rumors and the one-way tickets out of town, Franco never got down. His relentlessly upbeat attitude and ability to make some adjustments/improvements at the plate are reasons he is one of this team’s early-season MVPs.
The additions of Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, Bryce Harper and Realmuto over the winter lengthened the Phillies’ lineup and pushed Franco to the No. 8 spot. There’s some thought behind the placement. One, he gives the Phils some thunder down there. And, two, Franco can be a free swinger. Hitting in front of the pitcher forces him to concentrate on being more selective. It’s working. He’s a force in that spot — even though he really does not care where he hits.
“I just try to go out there and do what I can to get my team better,” he said.
Because of injuries, manager Gabe Kapler has been forced to move Franco up in the lineup a few times recently. But now the Phils are getting healthy and they have their No. 8 hole threat back.
“He's been especially comfortable down there and he's been especially productive down there,” Kapler said. “I don't feel the need to change a really good thing right now.”
Why mess with success?
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