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Franco's among 3 Phils HRs off Cole

March 29, 2017

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates Opening Day starter Gerrit Cole struggled with the long ball in his final Grapefruit League start.Aaron Altherr, Cameron Perkins and Maikel Franco each connected on solo shots for a Phillies split squad in an 8-2 win at LECOM Park on Wednesday.• Nava, Phils strike early against

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates Opening Day starter Gerrit Cole struggled with the long ball in his final Grapefruit League start.
Aaron Altherr, Cameron Perkins and Maikel Franco each connected on solo shots for a Phillies split squad in an 8-2 win at LECOM Park on Wednesday.
Nava, Phils strike early against Verlander
Altherr cleared the batter's eye wall in straightaway center to get things started against the Pirates' Opening Day starter in the second. Two batters later, Perkins connected on an 0-2 fastball that cleared the right-field fence. Franco lined the first pitch he saw in the third over the 375-foot mark in left field for his sixth spring homer, giving the Phils an early 3-0 lead.

"That felt really good," Altherr said. "I kind of surprised myself actually when I hit it. I didn't think it was going to go that far. I felt like it was going to go out, but I didn't think it would go over the batter's eye."
Cole finished the day with three strikeouts in his three innings.
"I love the velocity and particularly his strength," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "With location, there was a couple of misfires and we all know it could be 95 or 99 [mph], but if it's straight without locating, it's going to get banged up here."
Along with his fourth home run, Altherr went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.

"I fine-tuned my swing a little bit," Altherr said. "I just got the feel back that I had before. I kind of lost it a little bit during the season last year. But it feels great. I feel good at the plate, I feel confident again. So [the spring is] definitely what I've hoped for."
After a leadoff double by Jordy Mercer, Jacob Stallings put the Pirates on the board with a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Mercer finished 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles to push his spring average to .302.
Keyed by an RBI single by Franco, who finished 2-for-4 with a walk, the Phillies tacked on four runs in the ninth to put the game out of reach.
Phillies Up Next: The Phillies play their penultimate Grapefruit League game at 1:05 p.m. ET on Thursday, facing the Yankees at Spectrum Field on MLB.TV. Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (1-2, 4.26 ERA) makes his final start. He will pitch for the Phillies next Wednesday against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Pirates Up Next: The Pirates broke camp after Wednesday's game and will enjoy an off-day Thursday before wrapping up the exhibition season with a two-game series against the Blue Jays in Montreal on Friday at 7:07 p.m. and Saturday at 1:07 p.m. Jameson Taillon (0-0, 3.65 ERA) will start for Pittsburgh in the first game, with Chad Kuhl slated to pitch the second. Both games will be available for free on MLB.TV.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.