Phils hope Asche's headed toward strong finish

Phils hope Asche's headed toward strong finish

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin took a seat in the Phillies' media room at Citizens Bank Park late Saturday night and opened his news conference with the following statement:

"As you all know, I've been saying that Cody Asche is the best hitter on the team. I think I've made that clear in the past."

Asche certainly was on Sept. 12. Appearing as a pinch-hitter, Asche hit a two-run walk-off home run in the ninth inning of a 7-5 Phillies victory over the Cubs. It was the second walk-off homer of Asche's career. The other came exactly a year earlier, when he hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning against the Marlins.

"That's absurd," Asche said of his Sept. 12 walkoffs. "That's just unbelievably crazy."

Perhaps the latest blast will spur Asche to a strong finish.

"It's been a while since I drove a ball like that," he said.

Asche on walk-off win

Asche is hitting .247 (91-for-368) with 22 doubles, two triples, eight home runs, 28 RBIs and a .678 OPS in 111 games. He opened the season as the team's third baseman before being optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to learn to play left field because of the arrival of rookie third baseman Maikel Franco.

Asche recently returned to third base while Franco is out with a broken left wrist.

But Asche has not had the season he hoped to have offensively. The Phillies had hoped for better, too. They love his mental makeup (they see some Chase Utley in him), so when he finished last season hitting .252 with 10 homers, 46 RBIs and a .699 OPS in 121 games, they expected those numbers to take a jump this year.

"We know he's got it in him," Mackanin said. "We know he's got that kind of power. He's got the ability to be a very good hitter. This year was not a good one for him, but there's still 19 games left and he's going to be playing. It would be great to see him finish strong, because we feel like he's got a good chance to be part of the future. I think if he finishes strong, he can go home feeling pretty good about himself."

Said Asche: "That's the daily mental grind that I'm facing right now. Just come in here and continue to work, regardless of what's happened prior to this point. Just keeping a clear mind every single day and making sure I'm working to get better."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.