Franco, Howard highlight Phils-Bucs slugfest

Franco, Howard highlight Phils-Bucs slugfest

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies would love to have more of the offensive production they had in the fourth and fifth innings on Friday afternoon at Bright House Field.

They had 10 hits and scored nine runs in the fourth in a 15-12 victory over the Pirates. The inning included a leadoff double from Cesar Hernandez, five consecutive singles, a suicide squeeze from pitcher Charlie Morton and a three-run homer from Maikel Franco to improve the Phillies to 12-5-2 this spring.

Franco's power surge predicted by Statcast™

The following inning, the Phils put up six more runs, highlighted by Ryan Howard's grand slam off of righty Trey Haley.

Franco's three-run homer

"It's good to see the guys swing the bats well," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "It's not the regular season, but we need to stay positive and feel good about ourselves at the bat. I emphasized pitching and defense and running this spring -- and not hitting -- and we're hitting better than we expected. We're happy about that."

The Pirates' bats were almost as loud. Morton allowed a two-run homer to Pedro Florimon in the second and a solo homer to Matt Joyce in the third. Jose Osuna hit a three-run shot against Dalier Hinojosa in the top of the ninth.

Morton made his second Grapefruit League start and struggled against his former team. He allowed four hits, five runs, three walks and the two home runs with three strikeouts in four innings.

Pirates starter Kyle Lobstein tossed three scoreless innings, giving up just one hit. He was relieved by Wilfredo Boscan, who allowed seven hits and eight runs in one-third of an inning in the fourth. Guido Knudson allowed three hits and one run in two-thirds of an inning. Haley, who came in next, surrendered six runs on four hits, including three homers.

"I've been able to translate what we've been working on in the bullpens to the game," Lobstein said. "That always feels good."

Osuna's three-run shot

Up next for the Phillies: Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 4.50 ERA) will start Saturday afternoon's Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., at 1:07 p.m. ET. The Phillies have made no announcement, but Hellickson or Aaron Nola will start Opening Day. At the moment, Hellickson is on schedule to make that start. Watch the game live on MLB.TV.

Up next for the Pirates: After building up his pitch count in Minor League camp last time out, left-hander Jonathon Niese will make his third Grapefruit League appearance against the Twins on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET at McKechnie Field. Niese will be followed by three of Pittsburgh's top relievers -- closer Mark Melancon, setup man Tony Watson and right-hander Neftali Feliz -- and left-hander Eric O'Flaherty, who is competing for the final spot in the bullpen. Listen to the game live on Gameday Audio.

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.