On-fire Franco delivers go-ahead RBI single

On-fire Franco delivers go-ahead RBI single

PHILADELPHIA -- This is the Maikel Franco the Phillies expected.

Franco hit a one-out single to left field in the seventh inning on Saturday night in a 4-2 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. The hit scored Peter Bourjos from second base to break a 2-2 tie. It also put the Phillies in position to win the series.

"It's good to win," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I didn't want to hear the Mets fans."

Franco has been swinging a hot bat since a slow start. He posted a disappointing .690 OPS through June 20, which put him among the bottom half of everyday third basemen.

Franco has been on a tear since Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz told the team's young hitters to relax in a meeting before a three-game series in Minnesota on June 21. He is hitting .354 (29-for-82) with five doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 21 RBIs and a 1.119 OPS in his last 21 games.

His OPS is third among all third basemen in that span, behind only Toronto's Josh Donaldson (1.190) and Arizona's Jake Lamb (1.172). Despite his slow start, Franco is tied for sixth among third basemen in home runs (18) and tied for fifth in RBIs (54).

"I'm seeing pitches much better," Franco said. "Even today, my first three at-bats, I felt really good. I'm staying positive. Every at-bat is really important."

Franco entered the season as the team's No. 3 hitter. He fell to sixth in the Phillies' lineup on June 18-19 against the D-backs.

But he is back hitting in the middle, looking like a force that the team can build around.

"I think he's better than what he was last year," Howard said. "I think getting that experience, every year you get a little more, and that makes you better. He's just really in a good, comfortable spot right now."

If Franco had been hitting like this from the jump, he likely would have joined teammate Odubel Herrera at the All-Star Game earlier this week in San Diego.

Maybe next year.

"I can't control that," Franco said. "I want to be at the All-Star Game at every year, but right now I just feel more comfortable at home plate."

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.