Franco shows he's unfazed by big moments
PHILADELPHIA -- When Maikel Franco steps into the batter's box, all he tries to do is see the pitches. But unlike most other hitters, when the pitches come in so fast that he can barely see them, Franco feels even more at ease.
"It's not simple but I feel more comfortable," Franco said. "When I know somebody can throw hard and I know he's not going to use so many breaking balls, I can just be ready for one pitch."
In Wednesday's 5-4 Phillies' win over the Reds in 11 innings, Franco's one pitch came in a particularly daunting situation. On a 1-0 count, the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman -- a reliever who had allowed four runs all season coming into Wednesday -- served Franco a 98-mph fastball. The right-handed batter turned on the pitch, pulling a line drive into the left-field bleachers projected by Statcast™ to land 414 feet away and sent the game into extra innings.
This was the second night in a row Franco set up an eventual Phillies walk-off, as on Tuesday Franco smacked a two-run homer into left field in the eighth inning to tie the game, setting the stage for a Darin Ruf walk-off single.
Franco's friend and teammate Freddy Galvis said he has seen something different from his left-side-of-the-infield mate since Tuesday.
"He's got power. He's got contact," Galvis said. "Yesterday I think he put some stuff together and it paid off yesterday and today."
Cody Asche, the man who Franco replaced a month ago as the Phillies' third baseman, wasn't surprised to see Franco hit the ball as well as he did against a pitcher of Chapman's caliber. Asche said over the three days the two of them spent in Triple-A together in May he grew accustomed to seeing Franco prey on quality pitching.
"What I've seen from Maikel is the better the pitcher, the better the stuff is, the better he is at hitting," Asche said. "He's unbelievable. It's unbelievable the skill he's got. He's got a quick bat. And the ability to drive high velocity fastballs is not something you see from a young player. That's a tough skill to have."
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg also praised Franco, saying that he's been impressed by how confident Franco has been the past few days and how unfazed he was by seeing Chapman on the mound, especially having never faced the hard-throwing lefty before.
And though some may be quick to slap the "clutch" label upon Franco based on his contributions the past two nights, not even Franco sees himself that way. Rather, he sees his achievements as necessary steps on the quest for his ultimate goal.
"I'm just trying my best," Franco said. "I try to do better every day. I come in every day and I'm just trying to be the best in the game."