Phillies Minor League Report: Maikel Franco hits for the cycle in Lehigh Valley win

Phillies prospect Maikel Franco. (Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)

Here’s how the Phillies’ minor league teams fared on Saturday, Aug. 23:

Lehigh Valley IronPigs – Triple A

A stellar hitting performance from third baseman Maikel Franco helped the IronPigs split a doubleheader with the Syracuse Chiefs at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.

The IronPigs somehow lost Game 1 by a score of 3-2 despite holding the Chiefs to only two hits.

Unfortunately for Lehigh Valley, one of those two hits was a three-run homer from Syracuse catcher Sandy Leon during the third inning.

The IronPigs only recorded five hits and plated their runs during the first and third innings. Lehigh Valley’s first run came courtesy of a solo home run from Franco.

Four of the IronPigs’s five hits came from right fielder Russ Canzler and Franco.

The IronPigs’ loss squandered a strong performance from pitcher Jeff Manship, who allowed only three runs on two hits during seven innings on the mound. He also struck out six batters.

Franco remained hot during Game 2, as he hit for the cycle to lead the IronPigs to a 7-1 victory.

Franco went 4-for-4 from the plate, hit his 14th homer of the season and drove in three more runs. Between both games, Franco went 6-for-7 with two homers and four RBI. He also crossed the plate on four occasions.

Franco wasn’t alone in his efforts, as the IronPigs racked up 13 hits against the Syracuse pitching staff.

Canzler, Leandro Castro and Cesar Hernandez all posted productive nights from the plate, as they all went 2-for-3.

Starting pitcher Jeremy Horst tossed four scoreless innings where he allowed only one hit and struck out six batters.

The decision, however, went to Tyler Knigge after he gave up an unearned run on one hit during 1.2 innings. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez saw some action as well, as he tossed 1.1 scoreless.

The IronPigs have three more meetings with the Chiefs this season, starting at 1:35 p.m. Sunday. Jason Marquis (1-1, 4.41 ERA) is scheduled to start for Lehigh Valley.

Reading Fightin Phils – Double-A

A pair of four-run innings lifted the Fightin Phils to an 8-5 victory over the Erie SeaWolves Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading.

The win for the Fightin Phils earned them a series win over the SeaWolves and was their third win in their last four games.

The Fightin Phils’ first four-run inning came during the third when they loaded the bases for third baseman Carlos Alonso.

With his only hit of the contest, Alonso hit his first Double-A grand slam to put the Fightin Phils in front, 4-1. The homer was Alonso’s 10th of the year.

The SeaWolves responded with four runs between the fourth and fifth innings to take a one-run advantage.

However, catcher Jake Fox set the tone for the sixth with a leadoff solo homer to left center field to tie the game. Fox’s homer was his 21st of the season and brought his RBI total up to 66.

Right fielder Aaron Altherr, first baseman Brock Stassi and shortstop KC Serna then provided three consecutive singles, which plated the inning’s second run.

Later in the frame, center fielder Zach Collier hit a double to right field that plated the final two runs and gave the Fightin Phils the lead for good.

Starting pitcher Hoby Milner earned his ninth win of the season despite having an averaging outing.

Milner tossed six innings where he gave up five runs (four earned) on five hits, including three home runs.

Matt Hoffman earned his second save of the year after he tossed 1.2 scoreless.

The Fightin Phils will go for the series sweep of the SeaWolves at 1:35 p.m. Sunday. Rookie Aaron Nola (1-0, 3.86 ERA) is slated to start for Reading.

Clearwater Threshers – Class A-Advanced

The Threshers bounced back from dropping both ends of a doubleheader Friday by earning a 6-2 win over the Brevard County Manatees Saturday at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.

A pair of two-run, one-out homers from right fielder Brian Pointer and first baseman Chris Serritella sparked the Threshers during the fourth inning.

Pointer now has 15 homers on the season whereas Serritella improved his total to six.

The Threshers tacked on two more runs during the fifth after shortstop J.P. Crawford lined a double to center field that plated center fielder Roman Quinn and second baseman Jesmuel Valentin.

Helping the Threshers stay out in front was pitcher Kevin Walter, who gave up only one run on three hits during five innings. He earned the win, which improved his record to 2-3.

Ulises Joaquin secured the win with a two-inning save, which was his seventh overall on the year.

The Threshers will look to salvage a four-game split with the Manatees at 1 p.m. Sunday. Miguel Nunez (5-7, 4.82 ERA) will take the mound for Clearwater.

Lakewood BlueClaws – Class A

An utter collapse from the bullpen led to the BlueClaws taking a 10-3 loss at the hands of the Greensboro Grasshoppers at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood Township, N.J.

The BlueClaws entered the seventh inning in a 3-3 tie with the Grasshoppers. Those circumstances drastically changed over the course of the next three innings, as the Grasshoppers plated seven runs, including five during the ninth.

The onslaught of runs came at the expense of Will Morris and Delvi Francisco. Morris took his third loss of the season after allowing two runs on four hits during two innings on the mound.

Francisco was hit with five runs (four earned) on four hits in only one inning of action.

Starter Ranfi Casimiro wasn’t much better during his time on the mound, as he surrendered three runs on six hits during 4.2 innings.

While the Grasshoppers were pulling away, the BlueClaws faded down the stretch, as they were unable to plate any runs during the Grasshoppers’ explosion.

First baseman Zach Green and catcher WIllians Astudillo led the BlueClaws from the plate by both going 2-for-4. Astudillo also drove in two more runs, which moved his season total to 60.

Designated hitter Dylan Cozens isn’t far behind, as his one RBI Saturday moved him up to 57 in 2014.

The BlueClaws will try to clinch a series victory over the Grasshoppers at 5:05 p.m. Sunday. Matt Imhof (0-1, 4.03 ERA) will start for Lakewood.

Williamsport Crosscutters – Class A-Short Season

The Crosscutters managed to outlast the Auburn Doubledays and earn a 4-3 victory at Saturday at Falcon Park in Auburn, N.Y.

The Crosscutters jumped out to an early lead thanks to a solo home run from first baseman Rhys Hoskins. The homer was his eighth of the season.

Neither team crossed the plate again until the seventh when the Crosscutters plated two more runs thanks in part to an RBI-double from Hoskins.

The Doubledays offense finally showed signs of life during the bottom half of the frame and plated three runs to tie the game.

Auburn’s comeback took away the decision from Williamsport starter David Whitehead, who tossed six scoreless innings.

Auburn’s comeback also came at the expense of rookie Matt Hockenberry, who allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits during the seventh.

But a groundout from designated hitter Wilson Garcia allowed Jan Hernandez to score from third base and gave the Crosscutters the lead for good.

Calvin Rayburn was able to shut the door on the Doubledays for his ninth save of the year. Hockenberry not only walked away with his first blown save with Williamsport, but he also came away with his first victory.

The Crosscutters won Saturday despite recording a mere five hits. Two of those five hits came from Hoskins, as he finished 2-for-3 with two RBI. He now has 38 on the year.

The rubber match between the Crosscutters and the Doubledays is set for 5:05 p.m. Sunday. Mitch Gueller (5-4, 3.65 ERA) is scheduled to start for Williamsport.

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