Maikel Franco slides to seventh in Phillies batting order

Philadelphia Phillies' Maikel Franco walks off the field as the Texas Rangers celebrate their 9-3 win following a baseball game, Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Arlington, Texas.

ARLINGTON, Texas - The message was implied. When the Phillies shuffled Thursday morning into Globe Life Park, they saw a lineup that included Maikel Franco, but batting seventh. He had not batted that low in the order since the final day of the 2014 season, Franco's first in the majors.

"At some point, players have to understand that you have to earn hitting up at the top of the lineup," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "You have to earn it. If you want to play, you have to hit. If you want to hit up in the order, you have to hit.

"He can work his way back up. I'm hoping he does. I feel like he will. But he has to earn the right to go back up in the middle of that lineup."

Franco homered Thursday in an 8-4 loss to Texas. He hit two other balls to the warning track. One of them was a sacrifice fly that pushed the Phillies ahead, 1-0, in the second inning.

The third baseman is batting .216 with a .663 OPS. He has underperformed. But the underlying numbers make it difficult to explain. Franco is swinging at a lower percentage of pitches out of the strike zone than he did last season. He is making more contact on pitches in the zone. He has hit balls hard.

The results have not been consistent.

"I feel really good," Franco said. "I saw the pitches really well today. I hit the ball to center field, to the right side, so I'm going to stay positive. That's what I have to do and that's what I want to keep doing. I feel good."

Did he understand the message sent by Mackanin, who slotted him lower in the lineup?

"I just try to do my best," Franco said. "It doesn't really matter where I'm hitting. I just try to do my best. Sometimes it's tough, sometimes it's hard. But I just go out there with the same mentality and what I can do to help my team."

Saunders hurt

Rightfielder Michael Saunders exited in the sixth inning with what the team described as tightness in his left groin.

"They told me they don't think it's serious," Mackanin said. "His groin area was pulling on him. He was concerned, but it's not like he pulled it."

Saunders, homered Wednesday and tripled in the second inning Thursday. He has a .299 on-base percentage and a .422 slugging percentage.

Extra bases

The Phillies will summon an extra arm for a few days to replace Nick Pivetta on the active roster. Aaron Nola will be activated before his start Sunday. Adam Morgan is the only reliever not in the majors currently on the 40-man roster, although the Phillies could recall one of the triple-A starters to temporarily slide into the bullpen. . . . The Phillies have lost six consecutive series for the first time since June 10-29, 2008. . . . Triple-A Lehigh Valley's franchise record 12-game winning streak ended Thursday with a 10-8 loss. Rhys Hoskins homered twice, but Mark Appel could not preserve a six-run lead.