Franco, Hunter power Phils in walk-off victory

March 4th, 2016

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Maikel Franco hit a three-run homer during a seven-run second inning before Cedric Hunter's three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth of Friday's 12-11 Grapefruit League win over the Braves at Bright House Field.

Franco homered for the second straight day, and he added an RBI single in the fourth, as the Phillies built a 9-2 lead after four innings.

Hunter, a non-roster invitee who was released by the Braves at the end of last season, was in the game because he replaced Aaron Altherr in the top of the second. Altherr injured his left wrist diving for a line drive to right hit by Ender Inciarte leading off the game.

"You know, that was my team from last year," Hunter said. "I'm over here now and it just kind of feels good to do it the right way with the team we've got here. We put together some good at bats, battled through some tough innings and ended up with the win."

The Braves collected 14 hits and drew eight walks to rally in the final two innings, the last two runs coming in on a Darnell Sweeney throwing error in the top of the ninth to give Atlanta an 11-9 lead. However, Hunter hit a towering drive over the wall in right field in the bottom half of the inning.

Braves right-hander Lucas Sims, Atlanta's top Draft pick in 2012, started and pitched around a walk in a scoreless first inning. However, he walked two more and gave up three hits while facing seven batters in the second. The final two runs of the Phillies' seven-run inning were charged to right-hander Victor Mateo, who surrendered Franco's homer.

Sims is likely to begin the 2016 season at Double-A Mississippi.

Veteran right-hander Jeremy Hellickson had early trouble commanding his fastball and gave up back-to-back doubles to Inciarte and Erick Aybar to start the game. He then begin relying more on his changeup and retired the final six batters he faced, five on strikeouts.

Hellickson, acquired from the Diamondbacks during the offseason, is in the running to be the Phillies' Opening Day starter.

Aybar finished 3-for-3 and Matt Kennelly added a two-run single in the Braves' four-run eighth.

"It's always good to win a game, but I'm not real pleased with a lot of things," said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. "We always talk about pitching and defense. That's how you win games. And the pitching and defense kind of let us down late in the game. I'm not going to be happy about that. But we won so we're going to move on and learn from our mistakes."

Up Next for the Braves:Freddie Freeman will attempt to extend his early success and further ease concerns about his previously-injured right wrist when the Atlanta hosts the Pirates on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET on MLB Gameday Audio. Freeman has homered and doubled through his first three at-bats of the Grapefruit League season. Bud Norris will make his debut for the Braves, who signed the veteran during the offseason to add experience to their young rotation.

Up next for the Phillies: Right-hander Aaron Nola, who also is vying to be the Phillies' Opening Day starter despite having just 13 career Major League starts, will make his Grapefruit League debut in Saturday's game against the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET on MLB.TV. Nola, the 23-year-old who was the Phillies' first-round Draft pick out of LSU in 2014, went 6-2 with a 3.59 earned run average as a rookie last season.