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Franco breaks through in big way at plate

Rookie blasts first home run and triple in win

PHILADELPHIA -- Maikel Franco is going to need some new headgear.

First off, he probably needs a new batting helmet. Twice in two days the rookie's helmet has flown off his head while rounding the bases. Saturday it was while he was charging toward home. Sunday it happened while he was barreling toward third base.

More importantly though, he's going to need a new cap. His old one is all covered in shaving cream.

The 22-year-old had a breakout day in his third game since his callup from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, going 2-for-4 with a triple, a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored, helping lead the Phillies to a 6-0 win over the D-backs, the team's fifth straight win.

After the game, Carlos Ruiz ambushed the youngster with a towel filled with shaving cream to the face, thus initiating the new guy into the locker room and signifying how well he had played.

Video: [email protected]: Franco gets pie in the face for big day

As if Franco hadn't done enough.

"I see him settling in," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It's great to see him swing the bat and connect. Maybe getting the home run out of the way might go a long way with him, not thinking about hitting the home run but having quality at-bats. I think he showed today much better quality at-bats and good contact. It's good to see that from him."

In the locker room before Franco's big game, relief pitcher Justin De Fratus seized Franco's attention. When he and the rookie locked eyes, De Fratus told his newest teammate that Sunday was going to be the day that Franco hit his first home run. Franco agreed.

After the game, De Fratus gambled on his hot streak and made another prediction.

"He's gonna hit 30 home runs and 120 RBI," De Fratus said. "I called the home run. He's going to take us to the playoffs."

While Franco didn't go that far when talking about his contributions, he did say he was grateful to even have the opportunity to hit home runs and triples at a Major League level. And while his eighth-inning solo shot might have been the biggest blast on the scorecard, Franco didn't think it was his most impressive swing of the day.

"The triple that I hit, I hit it better," Franco said. "But the last one that I hit, I think the ball was going my way. Because the first one I hit better and it didn't go. But it did go finally."

Video: [email protected]: Franco knocks RBI triple, extends lead

Though Sunday's game saw Franco supply his first home run and triple, this hasn't been his first exposure to the Majors. Franco earned a callup last September but wasn't much of a factor.

However, this time up Sandberg has seen something different from Franco, likely stemming from how well the third baseman was hitting in Triple-A.

"I think he's more comfortable," Sandberg said. "He knows the players well and I think coming here as a player that's going well is a big thing for him. I think that's probably the biggest thing, giving him so much confidence with what he was doing at Lehigh Valley."

As for the headgear situation, Franco said he might need to make a change.

"Maybe I'll try a different helmet because every time when I run my helmet comes off," Franco said.

Nick Suss is an associate reporter for
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