WASHINGTON -- Saturday for Maikel Franco -- and the Phillies -- was a tale of two slides.The Phillies beat the Nationals, 5-3, Saturday afternoon, and while it continued to prove the youngsters from Philly can stand with the National League East's perennial best, it also spotlighted the continued development of
WASHINGTON -- Saturday for Maikel Franco -- and the Phillies -- was a tale of two slides.
The Phillies beat the Nationals, 5-3, Saturday afternoon, and while it continued to prove the youngsters from Philly can stand with the National League East's perennial best, it also spotlighted the continued development of the 25-year-old Franco, who finished the day going 4-for-4 along with key baserunning.
"I [felt] pretty good today," Franco said. "Like I said, I try to go out there and do everything I can for my team -- help my team to win and be able to do anything that I can do."
Franco's first slide at home tied the game at 2 in the second. His next slide at home gave the Phillies the lead in the seventh. It was encouraging for Franco -- and manager Gabe Kapler -- as both have been looking for the third basemen to more completely round out his game after being thrust into a larger role with J.P. Crawford injured.
Franco saw a chance to make an impact while on third base in the seventh inning. Pinch-hitter Jesmuel Valentin lined out to right, but Franco was able to slide in just in time before the throw from Adam Eaton -- the second time of the day Franco was able to beat Eaton's throw home. He gave his team the lead, later solidified by Carlos Santana's third home run in his past four games and an RBI single from Franco -- both off Kelvin Herrera -- in the eighth.
Coming off his worst start of 2018, Aaron Nola's day began promisingly, but the Nats battled. The righty retired the first two Nationals he faced with just four pitches, but a two-out single from Anthony Rendon and a ground-rule double from Juan Soto brought up Daniel Murphy, who sent a 3-2 changeup up the middle to score both Rendon and Soto.
Despite the two runs, Nola settled back in, going six strong innings while only giving up two more hits on 84 total pitches. In the second inning, he helped make up what he lost in the first with an opposite-field RBI single, capping off a rally of four straight singles from the Phillies' offense. The bullpen allowed two hits -- one a homer to Rendon -- and Seranthony Dominguez shut the door for his fifth save of the year.
Winners of four consecutive series -- three of which have come against teams above .500 -- Philadelphia sits at 41-33 on the season and 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Braves after Atlanta has lost three straight.
"It may change the external conversations," Kapler said of the success, "but certainly internally, we thought that, 'We went through this stretch and got beat up a little bit', or, 'We went through this stretch and came out in a really good spot'. We still are the same high quality team."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Franco slips up: Franco's two slides at home were sandwiched around a learning moment for him, also on a slide. A single up the middle in the fourth caused the Nationals' middle infielders into a near-collision, and as Franco tried to stretch his hit into a double amid the chaos, he overslid the bag and was tagged out by Murphy. Nick Williams moved to third, but it allowed the Nationals to intentionally walk Jorge Alfaro to bring up the pitcher's spot with two outs. Erick Fedde escaped the threat, though it could have potentially been a bases-loaded, one-out situation for the Phillies.
"It's just a healthy reminder that he's 25," Kapler said of Franco. "There are going to be ebbs and flows. There are going to be ups and downs. We have to stay resilient as a support system. He has to stay resilient as an athlete. ... We put him in the best spots to succeed. I trust that when we do, he's going to come out swinging.
Franco's four hits Saturday matched his production from the 28 at-bats that preceded the day. He was 4-for-28 entering Saturday, and his last four-hit game came on July 14, 2017, against the Brewers.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Franco's go-ahead slide in the seventh wasn't without controversy. Catcher Spencer Kieboom's tag hit Franco on the hip as the play was initially ruled safe. The Nationals challenged the play, and after a review, the call on the field stood, giving the Phillies the lead.
HE SAID IT
"We are playing really good right now. We have to stay positive and stay consistent and everybody does something to help the team. That's how you want to win the ballgames. We play with a lot of energy, we go out there and don't think about who's pitching, who's on the mound. We just go out there and show a lot of energy. -- Franco, on the Phillies' recent success
The Phillies turn to Nick Pivetta Sunday night, looking for their first sweep at Nationals Park since 2016. Pivetta, who is coming off one of his strongest outings of the season, will be opposed by Nationals rookie Jefry Rodriguez. First pitch is slated for 8:05 ET.
** Zachary Silver ** is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.