Phils answer question in right by tabbing Francisco

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Phils answer question in right by tabbing Francisco

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Posted: 11:35 p.m.

By John R. Finger
CSNPhilly.com

Rare is the time when Charlie Manuel breaks camp with a roster devoid of question marks. The truth is, Manuel typically has more juggling to do this time of the year than Barnum & Bailey.

Why should 2011, when his Phillies are odds on favorites to get to the World Series, be any different?

As the new season is set to begin on Friday afternoon against the Houston Astros at the Bank, Manuel has question marks at third and second base as well as a batting order with a lot of interchangeable parts. Before the penultimate exhibition game of the spring, Manuel said he hadnt decided on a lineup or a second baseman and he felt it was a good idea to rest third baseman Placido Polanco.

But right field is no longer a question mark. Ben Francisco is your starting right fielder.

Ben Francisco is the starting rightfielder, Manuel said. Hes going to get a chance to play a lot.

Francisco certainly earned the starting job during spring training. His five homers were tied for the team lead with Ryan Howard and John Mayberry, with 14 RBIs, while his .377 batting average was the best amongst the teams likely starters.

Franciscos fifth homer of the spring came when he led off the second inning of Tuesdays game against the Pirates with a solo shot to left that cut through the teeth of a 15-mph wind. The shot proved to be the catalyst in a three-run third that delivered the Phillies a 8-5 victory and their Grapefruit League-best 21st win.

Still, whether Francisco is the right-handed bat the Phillies need to replace Jayson Werth will have to play itself out. Werth, of course, was picked up off the scrap heap after struggling with injuries throughout his early career. He was mostly a bench player during the 2007 season and served as part of a platoon with Geoff Jenkins in 2008 until an injury opened up a spot for Werth.

Francisco finds himself in a similar situation where he can take the job if he shows Manuel he can handle it.

The biggest problem we have is the third and the fifth hitter, Manuel said. With Werth and Chase Utley here last year, those were run-producers. If you look, I dont think we have anyone with the background to knock in 95 runs.

True, but Werth didnt have that pedigree, either. In fact, there have been several players through the years who benefitted from the coziness of the Phillies lineup and home ballpark the way Werth did. Aaron Rowand also produced career-best numbers in Philadelphia before departing to San Francisco. The same goes for Pat Burrell.

Why cant it be the same way for Francisco?

When we start the season, Franciscos going to get a chance to play, Manuel said. In our organization, people think he can hit. I think he can hit, too. Hes going to get a chance to play.

Ive heard people say he got to play in Cleveland. He didnt get no 350, 450 at bats or anything like that. Hes never done that. So this is a chance for him to get to play. Starting off, hes going to get a good chance to play, what you call a bona fide chance.

Or, more succinctly

Got to change those question marks into exclamation marks, Manuel said.

Oswalt gets final tune up
In his final outing of the spring and his first trip to the mound since getting hit on the neck with a line drive, Roy Oswalt was a bit shaky on Tuesday night. In four innings he allowed five hits, four walks and five runs and says his stamina was an issue in his last inning.

Not only that, but the much chillier climate in Philadelphia as opposed to Florida bothered him a bit, too.

The ball felt a little cue ball-ish, Oswalt said, noting that he had trouble gripping the seams in the 40-degree air.

Meanwhile, Luis Castillo appears to have locked up the Opening Day job at second base. The late spring pickup went 2 for 4 with two runs, an RBI and a stolen base. In seven games with the Phillies, the former Marlin and Met is 6 for 22 (.273) with a pair of walks.

He definitely figured into our offense tonight, Manuel said about Castillo. In some ways this isnt fair to him because he needs a good chance. Well give him tomorrow and then well make a decision, but hes done a real good job since hes been here.

E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com

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Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Tigers 5

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Tigers 5

BOX SCORE

DETROIT – The Phillies beat the Detroit Tigers at their own game in picking up an 8-5 win to salvage one game in the interleague series on Wednesday afternoon.

Aaron Nola pitched well and earned the win. Odubel Herrera had a big hit and Hector Neris was clutch out of the bullpen.

The Tigers are one of the best hitting teams in baseball and the Phillies are one of the worst. But the Phils out-hit the Tigers, 12-10. Two of the Phils’ hits were home runs.

The Phillies entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game, ranking them second-to-last in the majors. The Phils had scored just 11 runs in their previous five games; four of them were losses.

The win left the Phils at 26-21 heading into Chicago for three games with the rugged Cubs.

Starting pitching report
Aaron Nola gave up seven hits and four runs over six innings of work. He walked one and struck out six.

Four of the hits and three of the runs Nola gave up came in the fifth. All the hits were singles and one could have been ruled an error. So Nola was not supported by completely clean defense.

The right-hander is 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 10 starts. He has 70 strikeouts and just 20 walks in 66 innings.

He is 6-1 in 13 road starts during his young career.

Detroit right-hander Anibal Sanchez took the loss. He gave up eight hits and six runs in six-plus innings. Three of the runs were unearned. The Tigers committed three errors.

Bullpen report
David Hernandez inherited a 7-4 lead in the seventh. He allowed two hits, a walk and a run with one out and was removed from the game. Hector Neris came on and struck out Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos to clean up Hernandez’s mess. Neris stayed on for a scoreless eighth.

Jeanmar Gomez earned his majors-leading 17th save.

At the plate
Peter Bourjos drove in two runs. He singled home one in the second and belted his first homer of the season in the seventh. The homer gave the Phils a 6-4 lead. Tommy Joseph increased the lead to 7-4 with sacrifice fly later in that inning.

Herrera had the big hit for the Phillies, a three-run homer in the fourth. He hit a 2-1 slider from Sanchez far over the right-field wall and scored Jose Bautista points with a big bat flip.

The Phillies scored their second run of the day when Bourjos and Andres Blanco executed a double steal. Blanco became the first Phillie to steal home since Chase Utley in 2009.

Cameron Rupp and Blanco had back-to-back doubles in the eighth to give the Phils some cushion.

Ryan Howard laced a hard, line-drive single to right his first time up then struck out in his next two at-bats. He finished 1 for 5 and is now hitting .160.

Every player in the Tigers’ lineup had a hit except Castellanos.

Health check
Maikel Franco limped off the field and out of the game before the start of the bottom of the seventh inning. He jammed his right foot sliding into second base in the top of the inning and was diagnosed with a sprained ankle. It was said to be mild.

Up next
The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday. The Cubs are the first team in the majors to reach 30 wins. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday afternoon – LHP Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60) vs. LHP Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61)

Saturday afternoon – RHP Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 3.30) vs. RHP Jerad Eickhoff (2-6, 3.86)

Sunday afternoon – RHP John Lackey (4-2, 3.38) vs. RHP Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75)

Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

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Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

Justin Verlander mowed down the Phillies last night in a 3-1 Tigers victory, but the Phils have a chance to strike back this afternoon against a struggling pitcher who hasn't had much career success against them.

Anibal Sanchez will take the hill for the Tigers and oppose Aaron Nola in today's series finale (1:10 p.m. on CSN). To say Sanchez hasn't had a great start to his season would be an understatement. He's 3-5 with a 6.32 ERA and opponents are batting .270 against him.

In his career against the Phillies, Sanchez is just 4-8 with a 4.94 ERA. Granted, most of those numbers came in the early part of his career with the Florida Marlins, when he regularly faced powerful Phillies lineups. As one might expect, Ryan Howard, who is again in the lineup today as the designated hitter and batting fifth, has seen Sanchez plenty of times. His 42 at-bats against Sanchez are tied for third-most against the 32-year-old righty. Howard's done OK against Sanchez — 9 for 31 (.290 average) with two homers and four RBI. Maybe some familiarity will finally lead to a breakout game for Howard. But, if his massive slump is any indication, maybe not.

For as poor as Sanchez's start to the season has been, Aaron Nola's first six weeks of 2016 have been at the other end of the spectrum.

Today's Phillies starter is 3-3 with a 2.85 ERA. But he's been better than those numbers show.

His .900 WHIP is third in the NL, as is his 5.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 6.45 hits allowed per nine innings is fourth in the NL, as is his 1.65 walks per nine innings. His 64 strikeouts rank eighth in the NL. Imagine if he got more than the 2.89 runs of support he's been getting in his starts.

As for the rest of the Phillies' lineup today, the only changes see Andres Blanco getting the start for Cesar Hernandez, batting seventh and Cameron Rupp behind the plate, batting sixth.

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera CF
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Maikel Franco 3B
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Ryan Howard DH
6. Cameron Rupp C
7. Andres Blanco 2B
8. Tyler Goeddell LF
9. Peter Bourjos 1B

Tigers
1. Cameron Maybin CF
2. J.D. Martinez RF
3. Miguel Cabrera DH
4. Victor Martinez 1B
5. Nick Castellanos 3B
6. Steven Moya LF
7. James McCann C
8. Mike Aviles 2B
9. Jose Iglesias SS

Best of MLB: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

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Best of MLB: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

BOSTON -- David Price scattered five hits over seven innings and Jackie Bradley Jr. had a pair of hits to extend his streak to 28 games as the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 8-3 on Tuesday night.

David Ortiz had a two-run double and a two-run single, and Dustin Pedroia added three hits to help Boston win its third straight game. Price (7-1) allowed three runs, walking one and striking out six to earn his third consecutive win.

Colorado lost for the fifth time in six games.

Jorge De La Rosa (1-4) made his first start after spending almost a month on the disabled list with a left groin strain. He gave up two runs in the first, two more in the second and left with one out in the fourth with two on and one run already in (see full recap).

Polanco, Pirates crush Diamondbacks
PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco hit a three-run homer and drove in a career-best five runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates rolled by the Arizona Diamondbacks 12-1 on Tuesday night.

Polanco's shot to the concourse in right-center field off Shelby Miller (1-6) in the first inning gave Pittsburgh an early boost. Francisco Liriano (4-3) scattered two hits in 5 2/3 innings and added an RBI single as the Pirates improved to 6-2 during a 10-game homestand.

After a short adjustment period, Polanco has thrived batting third in the lineup, hitting .317 (20 of 63) with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 15 games. The Pirates spread their 17 hits among 11 batters.

Miller's recent recovery from a miserable start with the Diamondbacks took a step backward. Less than a year removed from an All-Star appearance with Atlanta, Miller's ERA ballooned to 7.09 after surrendering six runs in five innings (see full recap).

Strasburg strikes out 11 in Nationals' win
WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg remained unbeaten with an 11-strikeout performance, and the Washington Nationals hit three of their season-high five home runs off struggling Matt Harvey in a 7-4 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.

Strasburg (8-0) gave up two runs and four hits over 6 2/3 innings in defeating Harvey and the Mets for the second time in six days. Strasburg has five games this season with at least 10 strikeouts and 26 over his seven-year career.

Harvey (3-7) stumbled through a third straight ineffective start, allowing five runs and eight hits over five rocky innings. The right-hander has yielded 16 earned runs and 31 hits over his last three outings.

Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon hit successive solo shots to put Washington ahead in the fourth inning, and Daniel Murphy added a two-run drive off his former teammate in the fifth for a 5-1 lead (see full recap).