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Franco ejected; Phillies can't pick up slack

Rookie third baseman has been club's most efficient hitter since May 15 callup

BALTIMORE -- Maikel Franco certainly cares.

Franco struck out looking in the seventh inning in Monday's 4-0 loss to the Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He did not like the call, which appeared to be low. He barked at home-plate umpire Eric Cooper and kept talking until Cooper finally ejected him.

"My emotions just got high in that moment," Franco said. "It's just baseball. That happens sometimes and you have to understand that. I have to understand that."

It was the first ejection of Franco's career. It was the first time a Phillies player had been ejected this season.

"Good to see emotion out there," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, who separated Franco from Cooper. "Absolutely."

It hurt to lose Franco, whose frustration had been building following a called third strike in the first inning that he believed was high. Franco has been the team's best hitter since his arrival from Triple-A on May 15. He entered the night leading the team in OPS (.852), slugging percentage (.527), home runs (six), RBIs (16) and extra-base hits (14).

Video: [email protected]: Franco hits a solo shot to extend the lead

The rest of the offense has not followed his lead. Since the Phillies scored in the fourth inning Wednesday in Cincinnati, they have scored just three runs in 47 innings. They have been shut out three times in the past four games, including a 13-inning shutout Friday and an 11-inning shutout Sunday against the Pirates.

"I know the guys are playing hard and hustling and trying hard," Sandberg said, when asked if he sees enough emotion from players throughout the clubhouse. "And maybe trying hard to an extreme. Who knows?"

Of course, it is difficult to show energy when the offense is not scoring. The Phillies are the only team in baseball to score fewer than 200 runs this season. They have tallied just 197.

They also have lost 17 of their last 20 games. The Phils need to win Tuesday night to avoid their first winless road trip of eight or more games in franchise history.

"I think everybody is grinding through it," Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang said. "We've all had our bad days. Sometimes you just have to snap and let the frustration out. Sometimes it's good, because if you leave it pent up too long, you can start pressing even more. We're all good for a good snap once in a while. I just don't let you guys see it when I do it.

"It's good to let that out. It shows that you really care. That's not just something where you're doing it for your own displeasure. When things are going tough, that stuff just happens. I think it happens to everybody."

Harang maintains that attitude in the Phillies' clubhouse remains positive, despite the losing.

"I don't think anyone is beaten down," Harang said. "Everyone in here is caring. There's frustration, because everyone in general hasn't played fully to our potential."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Philadelphia Phillies, Maikel Franco