With one swing, Freddy Galvis turned what looked like a quiet end to a decent homestand into an exhilarating 4-3 win in the Phillies' final game at Citizens Bank Park before the All-Star break (see Instant Replay).
Galvis' two-run, game-winning home run with two outs in the eighth gave him a career-high eight. It also gave the Phillies a series sweep over the Braves, a 5-1 homestand and an eighth win in nine games.
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The Braves turned to their closer, Arodys Vizcaino, for a six-out save, but he came one strike short of completing the eighth. He threw Galvis a 2-2 fastball right down the middle and Galvis crushed it into the right field seats. Nick Markakis barely moved.
The inning, though, never would have reached that point had Maikel Franco not exhibited patience to start it off. Leading off the eighth, Franco, who earlier homered for the fourth straight game, worked a full-count walk before eventually coming around to score on Galvis' longball.
It was something you wouldn't have seen from Franco three weeks ago. Or three weeks before that. Or three weeks before that.
"I think if you were a betting man, you wouldn’t have bet that he'd take that way because he's trying to tie the game up," manager Pete Mackanin said. "But he had a great at-bat there and that's a great sign."
Over his last 15 games, Franco has been the power source Phillies fans expected to see in 2016, hitting .375 with six homers and 16 RBIs.
Franco's hot streak, like the Phillies offense's as a whole, began on June 21 in Minnesota. He homered and drove in four runs that night, then walked five times the next two games. Franco, overly aggressive at the plate since the final week of April, had just 10 walks in 180 plate appearances from April 29 through the Minnesota series. He's walked nine times in his last 61 plate appearances, so clearly things are slowing down for him at the plate.
"I'm just really comfortable," Franco said. "I'm seeing pitches much better. ... Obviously before, I'm not taking [a 3-2 pitch] in a one-run game. When I do that, it means I'm working the right way and seeing pitches the right way."
Franco says his approach and routine have not changed much the last few weeks. What's more likely is that he's settled down at the plate with so many of his teammates hitting. He doesn't need to be The Man right now. And as a result, he's been The Man. That's the funny thing about trying too hard. Sometimes natural ability is enough.
"Sometimes when you get frustrated, when you see the team not doing [well], that's the first thing you think about — you want to go out there and try to do something, and obviously at that point you try to do too much," Franco said. "But right now, I just feel comfortable at the plate. The team's showing a lot of energy. We're playing as a team."
The Phillies are playing like a team possessed. They've been unexpectedly streaky this season and the last few weeks have been no different. The Phils have followed nine straight losses with eight wins in nine games, and they have a ton of momentum heading into this final series before the All-Star break at Coors Field in Colorado.
At 40-46, the Phillies are on a 75-win pace. That would be a dozen more wins than they had last year. They've reached the 40-win mark in 18 fewer games than it took last season, when win No. 40 came on the night of the trade deadline.
Speaking of the trade deadline, the Phils' top trade chip had another impressive outing Wednesday. Jeremy Hellickson, without his best stuff, allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits over six innings, posting his 10th quality start of the season. Through 18 starts, Hellickson is 6-6 with a 3.92 ERA. Given the lack of starting pitching available in the trade market and in free agency this offseason, Hellickson, whose contract expires at season's end, figures to be one of the most attractive names.
"Hellickson is exactly what we were looking for when we got him," Mackanin said. "His first half is over and he’s really stabilized our rotation, gives you six innings, seven sometimes. He throws strikes. He’s done a hell of a job for us."
The game was tied when Hellickson exited. Two innings later, Hector Neris allowed a two-out RBI double to put the Braves ahead by a run. But Neris (3-3) eventually earned the win thanks to Galvis' heroics.
Galvis needed that bomb. At this point, he is what he is, a .236 career hitter in just under 1,500 big-league plate appearances. But he's proven capable over the years of making a difference, specifically late in games, with his often overlooked pop.
"I have to tell you the truth, man, baseball is a funny game," said Galvis, who was 1 for 16 in July before Wednesday. "Sometimes you are down a little bit on yourself. ... I was trying too hard and right now I feel pretty good."
Sounds like a common theme — trying to do too much. But it's more than just a baseball cliche in this case. In mid-June, every hitter on the Phillies except maybe Cody Asche was in a funk simultaneously. Nobody knew if the man on deck was capable of doing the job, so every player was gripping the bat tight and swinging to get out of his own individual slump and the team's overall skid.
But right now, it seems like everyone is hitting — Franco, Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos, Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, the catchers. The Phillies have been among the majors' best offenses the last two weeks.
To Galvis, Franco's turnaround appears legitimate.
"I think sometimes Maik tries to put the pressure on himself, tries to do everything to win the game," the shortstop said. "And he was hitting third and fourth and so everybody's eyes were on him. When his confidence goes up, he's a pretty good hitter, and I think he's going to get better. ... When his confidence goes up, everybody wants to be like Maik."