With pinch-runner Steve Lombardozzi on third and one out in the ninth inning on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer lifted a fly ball into foul territory down the right-field line. Francoeur caught the ball and came up throwing. Lombardozzi barrelled down the line, but the strong-armed Francoeur's throw beat the pinch-runner to the plate, ending the game and winning it for the Phillies, 3-2.
"We're aware of the player. We're aware of the arm," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Francoeur. "It's an aggressive play, a play we have a chance to score a run on. He's going to the wall, has to come off the wall to make the throw … he made an excellent throw."
Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels went seven innings, allowing just two runs and five hits while striking out nine. Jonathan Papelbon recorded his seventh save of the season after throwing a scoreless ninth inning. The save was his 113th with the Phillies, which set the franchise record for career saves.
"As an outfielder who likes to throw, you live for that kind of moment," Francoeur said. "Especially for Paps, it was a big one if we got it."
The loss ended the Pirates' four-game winning streak, knocking the team back down to .500 at 17-17. The losing pitcher for the Pirates was Francisco Liriano, who allowed three runs and struck out six in seven innings of seven-hit baseball.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Liriano hiccups four times: Entering the bottom of the fifth with a 2-0 lead, Liriano had allowed a season total of 22 hits in 42 2/3 innings -- but he lost both that hard-to-hit veneer and the lead as the Phillies bunched four hits for three runs. Liriano has had four starts this season when he didn't allow as many hits. More >
Flipping the script: After seeing leads evaporate half an inning after earning them multiple times in the last week, the Phillies managed to build a response of their own in the fifth inning Wednesday night. Hamels allowed two runs in the fifth inning, only to see his offense pick him up in the bottom half to the tune of three runs. Liriano had retired the previous 10 Phillies he had faced prior to the inning, but allowed two singles and a double to start the home half of the inning. Carlos Ruiz, Ben Revere and Freddy Galvis provided the RBIs. More >
"That was big coming right back," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We strung four hits together. The guys came up big getting the hits together and put the three spot up there. Once again I think that played big for the rest of Cole's outing."
Sticking with the ace: Hamels had thrown 108 pitches through six innings, but Sandberg chose to keep stand by his starter and throw him one more inning. Hamels proved his manager's thinking correct, setting down the Pirates on seven pitches in the seventh, all either ending in the strike zone or in play. More >
"You make decisions and live with them. I haven't managed a perfect game yet, for all the years I've been doing it." -- Hurdle, on his decision to play Corey Hart in right and Sean Rodriguez at first, because he wanted the "better athlete" on Citizens Bank Park's hard infield; Hart seemed hesitant in going after the Galvis single that drove in the winning run
"Yeah, you know if there's one way to do it, that's the way to do it. Go out in an exciting way." -- Papelbon, on Francoeur's catch and throw to end game, giving Papelbon the franchise's saves record
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Hamels is 10-0 with a 2.30 ERA in 16 starts when the Phillies have scored three or more runs for him the past two seasons.
The Pirates' Josh Harrison was among the National League's top hitters against left-handed pitching last season, with a .345 average versus southpaws. In the early going this season, Harrison is 2-for-15 off lefties.
MOMENT OF SILENCE
The Phillies held a moment of silence prior to the game in honor of the at least seven passengers who were killed in the Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia Tuesday night. The accident happened during Tuesday's game about 10 miles north of Citizens Bank Park. Both the Pennsylvania state flag and the flag of the city of Philadelphia were flown at half-mast Wednesday.
The Pirates had a run taken off the board in the fifth inning after what appeared to be an infield single for Starling Marte was overturned by instant replay. The replay showed that third baseman Cesar Hernandez's throw made it into Ryan Howard's glove barely before Marte's foot landed on the bag. The replay took about 34 seconds and ended a two-run fifth for the Pirates. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Vance Worley goes for the Bucs in Thursday's 1:05 p.m. ET finale of the four-game set. Worley won his 2014 start at Citizens Bank Park, where the former Phillies starter has a lifetime 10-7 record. The current Phillies players are a combined 1-for-18 against Worley. Cody Asche has fared better against him (2-for-2) but was recently optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Phillies: Aaron Harang will make his eighth start of the season for the Phillies Thursday. Harang leads Philadelphia starters in nearly every pitching category thus far, with his 2.38 ERA and his 1.015 WHIP among the top 10 in the National League. Thursday will mark Harang's 29th start against the Pirates, his most against any team. He is 16-8 in his career against Pittsburgh with an ERA of 4.04.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. Nick Suss is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.