NEW YORK -- Maikel Franco lugged a career-worst 0-for-21 slump into Thursday night's game against the New York Mets.
By the second inning, the skid had swelled to 0 for 22 and it was reasonable to begin to wonder if Franco would get a night off when the Phillies returned home Friday to face Bartolo Colon and the Atlanta Braves. After all, Franco is 1 for 16 with no walks and three strikeouts lifetime against Colon, the portly right-hander who knows how to exploit Franco's free-swinging tendencies with savvy, pitch movement and change of speed.
When Pete Mackanin posts his starting lineup for Friday night's game, look for Franco to be in it.
Colon or no Colon, Mackanin has to play Franco after the way he rebounded after his first at-bat Thursday night.
Franco scorched an RBI double to left field against gas-throwing Noah Syndergaard in the third inning and later belted a home run against Fernando Salas to help lead the Phillies' 6-4 win over the Mets (see game story).
It was a slump-busting, confidence-building, frustration-dissipating game for Franco. The Phils' cleanup man will carry a .172 batting average into Friday night.
"It was great to see Franco finally break through," Mackanin said. "He's not going to hit .150, .160. These guys that are hitting .380 and .400, they're not going to hit .380 and .400 all season. Everything evens out."
Franco admitted that the slump had begun to frustrate him. He believed that he was hitting the ball better than his results. He was, in fact. Entering Thursday, the ball had come off his bat at 91.7 miles per hour, according to MLB's Statcast data. That was the 18th-best average exit velocity in baseball. On balls in play, Franco was hitting just .136 entering Thursday and that suggests some bad luck.
But it wasn't all bad luck, in the opinion of hitting coach Matt Stairs.
"It's kind of surprising to see his numbers with the amount of work he does in the batting cage," Stairs said before the game. "He works his tail off. He does everything right in the cage, gets out in batting practice and works on things and has great BPs, drives the ball to left-center and right-center, not thinking pull.
"I think the thing that is hurting him this year is that he's gotten some pitches to hit and he's missing them. I really do. If you go back and look at the films, he's had some pitches to hit. I don't know if he's gotten a little too big (with his swing). I think his timing is off a little bit. His foot is getting down late which is causing him to miss those pitches.
"Yeah, he is running into some bad luck. But I'm not going to say that's the reason he's hitting what he's hitting. He's made some easy outs on balls he should be hitting."
Though his batting average is down, Franco's selectivity at the plate, a major problem last year, has improved in the early season. He entered Thursday seeing 3.93 pitches per at-bat, up from 3.56 last year, and his walk rate was 8.3 percent, up from 6.3.
Before the game, Stairs offered the opinion that Franco was ready to break out.
"Am I worried about him?" Stairs said. "No. It takes one swing to turn it around."
Franco found that swing.
Now comes the test of Bartolo Colon.