OK, so it’s too soon for levity at Andrew McCutchen’s expense. McCutchen is out for the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and it’s a crushing blow for the Phillies. Not only must they make do without their left fielder and leadoff hitter, but they also lose perhaps the most respected veteran player in the clubhouse.
But in their first game without McCutchen, the Phillies got three hits, including a grand slam, from his replacement. Jay Bruce drove in six runs to almost singlehandedly end a five-game losing skid. Acquired last weekend in a trade that now looks even more timely, the 32-year-old still has enough power at the plate to help make McCutchen’s absence easier to bear.
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Maikel Franco went to the plate as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning last night, turned on an 87-mph slider from Padres reliever Luis Perdomo, and crushed it off the facade of the second deck in left field at Petco Park.
What a tease.
That, in a nutshell, is Franco, who has as much power as almost any other Phillies hitter but can’t seem to harness it. For more than a year, the Phillies have tried to get the 26-year-old to swing with more loft and drive the ball in the air more often. But every time it seems he has figured out the launch-angle thing, he reverts to rolling grounders to the left side.
It was something of a surprise that Franco is even still with the Phillies. They looked into third-base upgrades in the offseason, flirting heavily and publicly with Manny Machado. When Machado signed with the Padres, the Phillies held their nose, stuck with Franco, and spent their money on Bryce Harper.
Franco was a revelation in April. He hit seven home runs through 107 plate appearances, mostly out of the No. 8 spot in the order. Finally, it seemed, he was reaching his potential. But last night’s homer was only his second in his last 112 plate appearances. He’s slashing .156/.216/.270 since May 3 and has forfeited playing time to Scott Kingery.
“He’s hitting a lot of balls on a line and on the ground again,” Kapler said of Franco. “When he’s at his best, he is hitting balls in the air to the middle of the field. When he’s not at his best, he mishits balls on the ground and the balls he hits well are low line drives and they get caught. When Maikel is at his best, he is our best option [at third base]. And when he’s not at his best, we have to consider other options.”
But how many times will Franco get benched before the Phillies move on entirely?
At this time last season, Franco sat in favor of J.P. Crawford and regained his job only after Crawford suffered a broken hand. He doesn’t profile as a valuable bench player because he lacks the speed to pinch-run and the versatility to play multiple positions. If he isn’t going to play every day, it’s unclear how he fits into the puzzle.
But we’ve seen this story before, and Franco is still here. Eventually, his time with the Phillies will have to be up.
For more on McCutchen’s season-ending injury and top outfield prospect Adam Haseley’s accelerated call-up to the big leagues, Bob Brookover has all the details.
In McCutchen’s absence, Cesar Hernandez will get the first opportunity to bat leadoff.
I caught up with Bryson Stott’s college coach at UNLV, and he described the Phillies’ first-round draft pick as a polished hitter. Within this story, Bryce Harper details his friendship with Stott, which includes watching college football together. “He’s a big Ohio State guy,” Harper said.
Leave it to Matt Breen, our resident draftnik, to find the coolest story of the Phillies draft. Eighth-rounder Nate Fassnacht grew up in Lancaster County and had season tickets at Citizens Bank Park.
Everything — and we mean absolutely everything — that you need to know about the eight players picked by the Phillies on Day 2 of the amateur draft.
Bob Ford offers the best argument yet for why MLB should force teams to install additional protective netting at ballparks: Nobody actually watches the game anymore. Indeed, in our short-attention-span world, fans must be protected from themselves.
Today: Jake Arrieta starts finale of road trip in San Diego, 3:40 p.m.
Tomorrow: Tribute to David Montgomery at Citizens Bank Park, open to public, 3:05 p.m.
Friday: Zach Eflin set to return to rotation at home vs. Reds, 7:05 p.m.
Monday: Diamondbacks come to town for three games, 7:05 p.m.
June 14: Phillies visit Atlanta for start of 26-game stretch vs. division rivals, 7:20 p.m.
Ask any Phillies pitcher and they will tell you about J.T. Realmuto’s impact behind the plate. Need more proof? Check out the numbers.
Entering last night’s game, Realmuto had thrown out a league-leading 17 attempted base stealers. His average “pop time,” the time elapsed from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the second baseman is projected to receive his throw, was 1.85 seconds, the fastest ever recorded since Statcast was instituted in 2015.
According to Fangraphs, Realmuto graded as the most valuable defender at any position in baseball. And Baseball Prospectus credited him as the best blocker (6.3 runs saved) and thrower (1.1 runs saved) among all catchers.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: Why didn’t the Phillies sign Charlie Morton in the offseason? His family is in Delaware and he had spoken about wanting to play closer to home. He had a tremendous amount of success the past two years for the Astros, and I thought for sure that the Phillies would go after him.
He ended up taking an offer from the Rays for two years at $15 million per year. All he’s done for the Rays is go 6-0 with a 2.54 ERA. Those numbers would look great in the Phillies rotation right now. Now the Phillies will probably have to trade prospects to get someone who isn’t as good as Morton. I thought this was a bad miss by the Phillies in the offseason, and it looks even worse now with how he’s been pitching.
— Dan M., via email
Answer: Thanks, Dan, for the question and comment. The Phillies were aggressive in going after free-agent lefty Patrick Corbin. When he signed with the Nationals, they made a more tepid bid for J.A. Happ, another lefty who wound up re-signing with the Yankees. Beyond that, they focused on other areas of the roster, believing that none of the other starters on the market represented an upgrade over what they already had.