Beleagured manager Gabe Kapler said his Phillies were going to try to get their swagger back Monday, and at least for a night, they did. After falling behind two times to the New York Mets, the Phillies put up a combined seven runs on seven hits in the fifth and sixth innings and ended their seven-game losing streak with a 13-7 win at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies pounded a season-high 19 hits, including four home runs, and they gained a game in the standings on the first-place Braves, who lost to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Jean Segura, Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, and Jay Bruce hit the homers, and Bryce Harper contributed a couple of RBI doubles. Segura had four hits, and Kingery, Cesar Hernandez, and Franco each had three.
“I think our guys attacked the fastball well, and the other thing that [hitting coach] John Mallee talks about quite a bit is when you’re on the fastball you hit spin that hangs,” Kapler said. “We did quite a bit of that as well tonight. I think we’re on the right track.”
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With his batting average just above the Mendoza line, third baseman Maikel Franco made just his 10th start in 21 games this month Monday night against the Mets. For the first time in a long time, he also made the most of it, going 3-for-4, including a two-run home run off lefty Steven Matz that put the Phillies ahead to stay in the fifth inning.
The three hits increased Franco’s batting average 10 points from .204 to .214. It was his first multi-hit game since May 13 against Milwaukee and his first multi-RBI game since May 1 against Detroit, when the Phillies were still thinking about him as the best No. 8 hitter in baseball.
Franco also made a number of spectacular defensive plays at third base.
“I’ll say this: When we were playing our best baseball, Maikel Franco was in the lineup,” Kapler said. "Maikel Franco was swinging the bat and was playing defense. If he is our third baseman, we are a really good baseball team. When he goes into stretches kind of like he was swinging the bat tonight, he can carry a club for 10 days, two weeks at a time. We’ve seen that several times over the last two years.
“On the flip side, when he struggles, it’s a real struggle. We’re trying to find ways to build that confidence so it becomes so strong that his success becomes more sustainable, more consistent, and it leads to more wins for the Phillies.”
The Phillies turned to superstition before Monday night’s game in an effort to end their seven-game losing streak, Scott Lauber writes, and they also trotted out a specialty pitching machine that throws curveballs. Nineteen hits and four home runs later, their losing streak was over. Jean Segura led the hit parade with four, including the Phillies’ first home run in the bottom of the first to start the scoring.
The vote of confidence for Kapler came around 4:30 p.m. Monday. If you were expecting anything else from general manager Matt Klentak, you obviously have not been paying attention to the Phillies the last two seasons. As I write, for better or worse, the two men will forever be linked together in team history.
Klentak still expects to be a buyer at the trade deadline. He’s just unsure of exactly what merchandise he’ll be looking for. Starting pitching remains the best bet.
The Phillies made a change Monday, but it was not the one many fans were hoping for. Instead, Kapler implemented a new form of batting practice with the help of a pitching machine that sends breaking balls to the plate. Afterward, Kapler talked extensively about getting the hitters to do a better job of identifying and attacking fastballs. They attacked everything Monday night.
In addition to giving Kapler a vote of confidence, Klentak also made it clear that he was on board with the way the Phillies manager handled lack of hustle situations involving Segura and Hernandez. Lauber has the story.
Tonight: Jake Arrieta will face Mets rookie Walker Lockett, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Nick Pivetta against Jason Vargas, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Aaron Nola faces Zack Wheeler in series finale with Mets, 1:05 p.m.
Friday: Vince Velasquez pitches series opener in Miami, 7:10 p.m.
Monday: Phillies open series in Atlanta.
In addition to providing the biggest hit of the night Monday, Franco also was the subject of the evening’s most interesting stat. By slugging Steven Matz’s 3-0 sinker off the brick batter’s eye in center field, he improved his career average to .450 (9-for-20) on 3-0 pitches that he has put in play. Five of his nine hits have been homers.
Since the 3-0 stat started being tracked in 1988, no Phillies player had more than four home runs in those situations before Monday night. Chase Utley hit four in his career. Franco also has the most homers on 3-0 counts of any player in baseball since 2015.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: I don’t like Bryce Harper hitting lead-off. I understand why Gabe Kapler is hitting Harper first, to try and shake-up the line-up but it’s not working. Why such resistance to bat Scott Kingery first? Why not try Roman Quinn to utilize his speed?
— Greg S, via email
Answer: Your wish came true Monday night, Greg. Kingery was in the leadoff spot for just the second time in his career and for the first time since April 16 of last season. He made the most of the opportunity, too, by collecting three hits, scoring two runs, and stealing a base. Kingery is not the perfect leadoff hitter because he does not draw a lot of walks, but when he’s hitting the way he has so far this season, there is no good reason not to have him at the top of the batting order. Monday marked the 15th time this season he has had a multi-hit game and the seventh time he has had three hits.
Question: My vibes tell me that the Phillies next manager will be Dusty Wathan, who I believe was named Minor League MOY twice, and is currently being squandered as the third base coach. Could happen this year. What are your personal feelings?
— Bill D., via email