Maikel Franco trying to salvage season with strong September

Maikel Franco was left out of the starting lineup for three straight games earlier this month as his miserable season seemed to get even worse. The Phillies wanted to get a look at J.P. Crawford, and Franco — despite playing a position Crawford learned only a month earlier — seemed to be the odd man out.

Franco rallied. His went 3 for 4 on Sunday and drove in two runs in a 6-3 loss to Oakland. It was Franco’s fifth multi-hit game since returning to the lineup on Sept. 8.

“I didn’t get excited or get mad but I just got more motivated,” Franco said. “When I have opportunities, I just put myself out there and try to learn and do what I can do to get better. That’s what I’m doing. When I see the lineup and know that I’m going to be in the lineup, I just talk to myself and say, ‘Get ready and do whatever you have to do to get better. ‘ ”

Franco will not save his season with a strong final month. He’s still batting just .233 with a .688 OPS. It has been a disappointment. But he can certainly salvage his season and give the Phillies at least some hope for next season. He has 13 hits in his last 32 at-bats over his last nine games. Manager Pete Mackanin said Franco “has done enough for us to still remain confident in him and be positive.”

“That’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I want to be,” Franco said. “Forget about the four or five months that happened, tough situation and tough moment, and try to just go out there and enjoy my game.”

Next season’s infield remains uncertain. The Phillies will likely need to move Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis to make room for J.P. Crawford if they keep Franco at third base. Scott Kingery will likely start the season at triple A, but the prospect should push his way quickly to the majors. Perhaps it was Crawford’s arrival — and the possibility that he could take Franco’s job — that pushed Franco for the last two weeks.

Crawford settling in

J.P. Crawford walked three times on Sunday as he appears to be finding comfort at the plate. The shortstop, who had a penchant for drawing walks in the minors, has six walks in his last six games.

“I think I’m just settling down and getting comfortable with a new team,” said Crawford, who batted second for the first time. “Just settling down and staying within myself.”

Crawford walked 79 times this season in 127 games at triple A. He still managed to walk as he navigated through a wicked summer slump. He rose quickly through the minor leagues because of his ability to control the strike zone, and it’s a good sign to see him replicate that early on in the majors.

“I feel comfortable up there and I like seeing pitches and working the count. I’m just doing my job,” Crawford said.

Extra bases

Chase Utley returns to Philly on Monday for a four-game series with the Dodgers. Nick Pivetta will face Clayton Kershaw in the series opener … Hoby Milner retired the lone batter he faced to extend his streak of consecutive scoreless appearances to 21. It is the fourth-longest streak by a Phillies reliever since at least 1913.