PHILADELPHIA - "Get out, get out, get out!"Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco pleaded with the baseball as it skied high toward the left-field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park. The ball had a chance to clear the fence, but it also looked
PHILADELPHIA - "Get out, get out, get out!"
Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco pleaded with the baseball as it skied high toward the left-field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park. The ball had a chance to clear the fence, but it also looked like it could fall onto the warning track for the inning's final out. Rhys Hoskins attested to a collective moment of silence in the Phillies' dugout before the ball landed in the first row of seats for a dramatic, three-run, walk-off home run in a 5-2 victory over the Marlins.
The victory kept the Phillies in first place in the National League East with a half-game lead over the Braves.
"That's the biggest hit of the season," Hoskins said.
Franco felt it. He launched his bat high into the air, and it knocked the helmet off his head on the way up.
"I get too excited, I know, I know," Franco said.
But Franco earned that monster bat flip. He had been banished to the bench in the middle of June, but he has been the Phillies' hottest hitter since. He's batting .342 with eight doubles, nine home runs, 20 RBIs and a 1.021 OPS in 34 games since June 22. He's winning the Phillies games in their first pennant race since 2011.
"Never give up, man," Franco said.
"What I think it says is people are motivated by different things," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "And Mikey turned a moment that wasn't necessarily what he wanted into real motivation. And since that day, he has been running every ball out. He has been preparing like a mad man. His process has been exceptional. He's made some swing changes. He's made some approach changes at the plate. He's among our best hitters. They flashed his July stats up there. They were sensational, and August is off to a good start for him as well."
The Phillies managed just five hits and one run through eight innings, trailing 2-1 by the ninth. But Marlins right-hander Kyle Barraclough walked Hoskins to start the final frame. Carlos Santana then reached on an infield single with one out, and Barraclough walked Asdrubal Cabrera to load the bases.
Nick Williams' fielder's choice scored Hoskins to tie the game.
Kapler knew first place was on the line when Franco stepped to the plate. He could not miss the fact that the Braves beat the Mets at Citi Field. The score glared at him from the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.
"Anybody that says they're not watching what's happening in the league around us, I just don't find that to be genuine," he said.
Moments later, Franco launched a 2-0 slider for the home run.
"We keep fighting, man," Franco said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Marlins first baseman Justin Bour smashed a 3-2 changeup from Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta for a two-run home run in the fourth inning. Pivetta otherwise threw the ball well, striking out seven without walking a batter in six innings. Pivetta has allowed 11 homers in his past 10 starts. He allowed five in his first 11. It has been the difference between his early-season success and recent struggles. He posted a 3.26 ERA in his first 11 starts, striking out 67 and walking 14 in 58 innings. He has a 6.27 ERA in his last 11, striking out 71 and walking 15 in 51 2/3 innings. The FIP is real.
"I got away with one the previous at-bat with a changeup, and thought I could go back to it," Pivetta said. "It wasn't the right pitch there. Luckily, these guys picked me up on a bad mistake on my part. It was nice to see that. I tried to go as long as I could to give this team a chance after my mistake."
Hoskins hit a solo homer in the sixth inning to cut Miami's lead to 2-1. He is hitting .367 with six doubles, eight home runs, 14 RBIs and a 1.436 OPS in his last 12 games. He has walked eight times and struck out 11 times in that stretch.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
If Franco's homer seemed high, it was. It had a 37-degree launch angle, according to Statcast™. That made it the Phillies' fourth-highest home run of the season.
HE SAID IT
"Right now, you can see something brewing, right? It's everybody from the top of the lineup to the bottom of the lineup has a chance to take you deep. Everybody from the top of the lineup to the bottom of the lineup has a chance to draw a walk. That inspires some confidence. Not saying it's been clicking on all cylinders. It hasn't. Our offense has not been perfect over the course of the last 10 days, two weeks. But you are starting to see some good trends, and I think we can lean on those." -- Kapler
WHEN WILL RAMOS PLAY?
Newly acquired catcher Wilson Ramos said before the game that he believes he will be back on the field before the end of the month. He has not played since July 16 because of a strained left hamstring.
"One hundred percent sure that I'll be back this month," Ramos said. "Probably in the middle of the month, not more than that. I think two weeks and I'll probably be fine. I'm not a fast runner. I'm not running too fast. I'm working really hard right now to come back strong. I don't want to rush."
Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez (7-8, 4.02 ERA) faces Marlins right-hander Trevor Richards (3-5, 4.06 ERA) on Friday night in the second game of a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. In eight appearances (seven starts) since allowing 10 runs against the Brewers on June 8, Velasquez is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA. Opponents have hit .163 against him in that stretch.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.