Kevin Fransden had his head down the entire time.
Coming on as a pinch hitter with two outs and the bases loaded with the Phillies trailing by two runs in the ninth inning on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, Frandsen said he didn’t see where the pitch was or where it rocketed to when he made contact.
“It's not being an idiot, he just threw it and I hit it,” Frandsen said. “I had my head down. I feel when you're not locked in to a game, you don't want to pull off or any of that stuff. I just kept my head on it and watched to see where the outfielders were moving. I didn't know if it went to right-center or left-center.”
It went to right-center between both outfielders and shot to the fence far enough to clear the bases and give the Phillies a dramatic, 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals (see Instant Replay). Though the Phillies (2-3) got just three hits -- their only three in the last 15 innings -- it was enough to steal the victory.
And all Frandsen did was put his head down and run while casting sideways glances toward home plate to see if Michael Young had made it all the way around from first base for the winning run.
It wasn’t until Frandsen saw Ryan Howard sprinting toward him near second base that he figured it out.
Better yet, it capped a pretty special week for Frandsen, who was on an opening day roster for the first time since 2007 as a member of the Giants. Frandsen’s parents, Dave and Tracie, traveled all the way from California to be at the ballpark to see him take part in the big moment.
And considering all that Frandsen has been through the last few seasons, how could they not?
After appearing in 109 games for the Giants in 2007, Frandsen missed all but one game in 2008 after rupturing his Achilles tendon. In 2009, he was competing for the starting second baseman’s job with the Giants only to lose out and wind up back in Triple A. In 2010, Frandsen was traded to Boston and again optioned to Triple A before the season started. By the end of April he had been designated for assignment before being picked up by the Angels.
In 2011, Frandsen hooked up with the Padres and again was released at the end of spring training. The Phillies picked him up and sent him to Triple A Lehigh Valley. When Placido Polanco went on the disabled list during the second half of the season, Frandsen took over the third base job with the Phillies and ended up batting .338 in 55 games.
That was good enough to earn him one of the last spots on the Phillies’ roster out of spring training. It also stuck with manager Charlie Manuel. Against Royals’ closer Greg Holland, Manuel went with Frandsen because of his ability to put the ball in play.
“Frandsen last year in 200 at-bats hit .330 or something for us,” Manuel said. “He showed us that he could hit. There tonight, if I was thinking home run I would probably send [Erik] Kratz up there. But I thought that we needed to tie up the game and a ball in the gap might win it for us, and it did. Frandsen, he’s a good hitter.”
To set up the game-winner, the Phillies did absolutely no hitting. Trailing 3-1 headed into the ninth, the Phillies had just a pair of hits. Going back to Friday’s game, where the Phillies didn’t get any hits in the final 6 1/3 innings, those two hits were all they had over 15 innings heading into Frandsen’s at-bat.
To start the ninth against Holland, Chase Utley walked on seven pitches. Ryan Howard followed with a four-pitch walk before Young worked another seven-pitch walk. With the bases loaded and no outs, Dom Brown whiffed on three pitches. John Mayberry followed with a four-pitch whiff on a check swing.
Knowing that he wasn’t going to get too many pitches to hit, Frandsen took a hack at the first offering from Holland, put his head down and took off. Strategy-wise, Frandsen drew on lessons from former Giants teammate Mark Sweeney, who is second all-time with 175 career pinch hits.
The lesson? Always be ready to hit no matter what the situation.
“[Holland] set up Brown and Mayberry with fastballs away on first pitches, and as a pinch hitter you only feel like you're going to get one pitch, and if he makes a mistake, you have to get it,” Frandsen said. “I don't even know if it was a mistake, I haven't looked at it. But I was hoping it was, and I was fortunate enough to be prepared -- I had been in the cage all night -- and just hoping for that one opportunity.”
After such a long road to make it back on an opening day roster, all Frandsen needs is a chance. Manuel won’t have any qualms about using Frandsen in tight pinch-hitting situations.
And Frandsen will be ready.
“I just feel like it’s a huge part of the team. As a pinch hitter, it’s a huge team at-bat,” Frandsen said. “There’s not too many times you go up there thinking ‘Oh, I need a hit for myself.’ Pinch hitting’s about getting a hit for the team and getting on base for whoever is down there or driving guys in to win a game or start a rally. Usually the pinch hitter is a guy going up there for the opportunity to help out.”
The Phillies and Royals finish the three-game series Sunday afternoon, when Cole Hamels faces James Shields.