Asche, Franco are dynamic duo in heart of order

Outfielder, third baseman each enjoying surge after early-season struggles

Asche, Franco are dynamic duo in heart of order

PHILADELPHIA -- Cody Asche and Maikel Franco hit third and fourth Friday night against the Royals at Citizens Bank Park.

That look could continue for a third consecutive game Saturday.

"As long as Asche is hitting," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said after Friday's 4-3 victory. "He's swinging the bat extremely well -- as good as I've ever seen him swing it. That's why I put him in the three spot. He looks good at the plate."

Asche and Franco entered the season on very different missions. Asche knew he needed to play well to remain part of the team's future. Franco wanted to establish himself as not only the team's third baseman of the future, but one of the better third basemen in the National League.

The season had not been kind to them early. Asche spent the first two-plus months on the disabled list with a strained right oblique. Franco's batting average hit a season-low on June 23 at .235.

But both have been swinging hot bats lately.

Asche doubled to score Peter Bourjos in the fifth inning to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead. He went 1-for-3 with one double, one RBI and one walk. He entered the night hitting .354 (17-for-48) with nine doubles, one home run, eight RBIs and a .977 OPS in his previous 14 games.

Asche's RBI double

Franco took a 3-2 fastball on the outer half of the plate and smacked it to right field for a two-out single to score Odubel Herrera from third base in the third inning to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead.

Franco went 2-for-3 with one RBI and one walk. He entered the night hitting .294 (10-for-34) with three doubles, one triple, two home runs, eight RBIs, seven walks, six strikeouts and a 1.046 OPS in his previous nine games.

"I'm more comfortable," Franco said.

He points to his eight walks, including two intentional walks, in his last nine games as evidence of that.

"I'm seeing more pitches, and I've tried to be more selective at home plate," Franco said. "That's what's happening right now. If they don't want to pitch to you, just take the walk. Just try to be ready for a mistake."

The Phillies scored 57 runs on their 5-4 road trip through Minnesota, San Francisco and Arizona. Their 6.33 runs per game average ranked sixth in baseball in that time. It was a windfall for a team that averaged a mere 3.11 runs per game through its first 71 games, putting them on pace to be the lowest scoring team in baseball in a non-strike shortened season since 1972, when the Angels (2.93), Rangers (2.99) and Indians (3.03) fared worse.

Asche and Franco are a big reason for the turnaround.

"We played really good on the road," Franco said. "Today we won against a tough team, and it allows you to gain more confidence."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. 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.