Power of Franco, bamboo rejuvenates Phils

June 26th, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler loved what happened Monday, but he needed to see more from Phillies third baseman on Tuesday.

Franco obliged. He launched a go-ahead two-run home run to right field in the sixth inning of a 7-5 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, giving the Phillies consecutive wins for the first time since a four-game winning streak from June 4-8. followed with the first pinch-hit homer of his career to give the Phils breathing room. The back-to-back blasts might have clinched two things for Wednesday: Franco’s presence in Philadelphia's lineup and more bamboo in the clubhouse.

“I'm thinking about making a trip to Chinatown myself,” Kapler said in reference to where Miller purchased the plant that has quickly caught on in the clubhouse. “Maybe I'll put some in my house.”

First, Franco. He had a remarkable first month of the season, hitting seven home runs and posting a .902 OPS through April 27. But Franco lost significant playing time over the past couple weeks as he struggled, hitting two homers with a .445 OPS from April 28 through Sunday.

Franco hit a go-ahead home run Monday, which led to a question before Tuesday’s game about Franco’s future. Could he get a little bit of a run at third base?

“Let’s see how today goes,” Kapler said before the victory. “Yesterday was awesome. Let's see what today looks like.”

Kapler and Franco have been in this spot before. Franco started to lose playing time at third base because of poor play in June 2018, but he returned following an injury to J.P. Crawford. Franco hit .326 with a .946 OPS over the next two months.

Franco hits homers in bunches when he is swinging the bat well. Maybe he’s heating up again.

“Last year I was in the same situation,” Franco said. “So this year I understand. I can control my emotions more and I know and understand everything, so I just do what I can control.”

“It was a huge hit in our season, quite frankly,” Kapler said. “He's swinging the bat good and we'll try to ride that confidence, for sure.”

Miller joined the Phillies on June 13, and he has not seen a lot of winning since then. It is why before Monday’s game he purchased a small bamboo plant from Chinatown to put in his locker. Miller considers bamboo good luck. The Phils won Monday, so he purchased a much bigger bamboo plant for the middle of the clubhouse.

“I’ll do whatever it takes,” Miller said. “They’re going to think I’m crazy going back to that place tomorrow for the third day in a row, but I told them I would see them tomorrow. They’re going to keep hiking the prices up on me. It was worth it.”

The ball left Miller’s bat at 106.2 mph and traveled a projected 418 feet. He shouted something toward the Phillies’ dugout, though he does not remember what it was.

“I love homers,” Miller said. “I was just fired up and kind of blacked out. It felt good.”

The homers by Franco and Miller helped people forget about a rough night for Phils right-hander Jake Arrieta, who allowed five runs on nine hits and two walks in six innings. But the sparks continued to fly in the sixth.

Mets reliever Wilmer Font, who served up the homers to Franco and Miller, drilled on the left shoulder with a 94 mph fastball in a 1-1 count. Home-plate umpire Joe West issued warnings to both benches, which Kapler considered excessive because he thought it put his relief pitchers at a disadvantage. He started to walk toward West, who told him to return to the dugout. Kapler continued to move toward West and was promptly ejected.

It was Kapler’s second ejection in four games after not being ejected previously in his brief managerial career.

“I wanted to get an explanation,” Kapler said. “In his mind, we shouldn't have gotten that explanation. We don't always see it the same way. It's understandable.”

Kingery and also homered for the Phillies, who hit four or more homers in consecutive games for the first time since May 21-22, 2009. picked up a four-out save for his fifth save of four or more outs this season.

Is it all due to the power of bamboo?

"Why not?” Arrieta said. “It's worked the last couple of days, so we're going to stick with it. I might put one in my locker."