Refreshed Franco bounces back after night off

Phillies third baseman notches hits in first two at-bats, including ninth homer

Refreshed Franco bounces back after night off

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies had a lot of questions coming into this season. One thing they were counting on, though, was that third baseman Maikel Franco would be a big bat in the middle of their lineup.

But Franco has struggled. He was given Wednesday night off in part because he was hitting .220 with three home runs and a .620 OPS since April 23.

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And it may have helped. He singled sharply to left in his first at-bat against the Brewers on Thursday night and drilled his ninth home run of the season into the seats in left his second time up. He had two of the Phillies' five hits as they fell, 4-1, for a seventh straight loss.

"I felt pretty good," Franco said. "It [the day off] was good for me. It made me feel relaxed at the plate. I was just trying to be positive every single day. I came in every day and tried to do my job.

"I know when I've got my rhythm at the plate and can see more pitches. This game was much better."

Manager Pete Mackanin said, with the Phillies struggling offensively, the 23-year-old may be trying to do too much.

"Possibly. He might be trying to carry the team," Mackanin said. "We're counting on him quite a bit, and he knows that. But it's all part of playing at this level. You've heard that before. This guy is young. This guy is putting too much pressure on himself, trying to do too much.

"But that's part of the business here. You've got to understand that. You've got to overcome it. You've got to understand that you shouldn't try to do too much. Just like when a guy throws hard, the more you muscle up, the worse you make it for yourself. So you've got to know that: don't muscle up, and take the ball the other way."

Part of the problem, the manager added, is that the Phillies have scored three or fewer runs in 34 of their 54 games this season.

"Day after day, where the offense was scuffling and we weren't producing runs, and guys like Franco started trying to do too much," Mackanin said. "Had the weight of the world on his shoulders. But you have to fight that urge. Or be reminded of it. Just do what you can do. If you're not a home run hitter, don't try to hit home runs. If you're striking out too much, you've got to work on that."

So was it the night off that led to his big night?

"It's hard to say," the manager said. "You like to think you move a guy in the lineup, you give him a night off, a couple days off, clear their heads. You try everything to get a guy back on track. And I hope so. I know Maikel's a better hitter than he's shown so far."

Trying to inject some offense into the lineup, Mackanin batted newly acquired outfielder Jimmy Paredes third. He struck out his first three times up before doubling in the ninth. Cody Asche, just off the disabled list, started in left and was hitless in his two at-bats.

"We didn't have a good night," Mackanin said. "[Brewers starter Chase] Anderson had a good changeup. He made everybody look bad. But we need to make some pitchers start looking bad. I think we're capable of it. I believe these guys are going to get better.

"We've just got to get it going. Our hitters have to step up. It was nice to see Franco step it up a little bit. He looked a little better at the plate. But everybody else has to start looking better at the plate."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.