Jeff Francoeur’s grin is infectious. A dozen hours after making a perfect throw to nail Steve Lombardozzi and seal the Phillies win Wednesday night over the Pirates and Jonathan Papelbon’s club record 113th save, Frenchy is still beaming and so are his teammates.
Ryan Howard, Jake Diekman and Justin DeFratus were smiling and laughing prior to the final game in their set with Pittsburgh.
“We’re loose,” Francoeur said. “We’re having fun. Last night was a blast. Who doesn’t love winning?”
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There hasn’t been much winning lately for the Phillies, who entered Thursday’s game with the worst record in baseball at 11-23. However, Francoeur sees encouraging signs.
“We’re 2-4 on this homestand but we can easily be 4-2," Francoeur said."The thing is that we’re coming back. We’re playing with tenacity. We’re going to win more games than people think.”
Francoeur, who ranks first among active outfielders in career assists and third among active outfielders, has played on a number of winners during his days with the Atlanta Braves.
He believes part of his duty with the Phillies, along with Howard, Papelbon, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, is teaching the younger kids how to play the game right.
“That’s what we need to do,” Francoeur said. “You look at a guy like (Odubel) Herrera and if he has a tough game, you don’t want him to get down. You teach them how to deal with things and how to win.”
Francoeur, who is scuffling at the plate during the homestand with a .100 average, is trying to lead by example on the field.
“I have to pick it up at the plate and I know I will,” Francoeur said.
Why has Frenchy, who was so dynamic at the plate with the Braves during the last decade, lost it with his bat over recent years?
“Ihave no idea,” Francoeur said. “Baseball is a funny game.”
Charlie Manuel couldn’t wait to work with Francoeur during the spring and hopefully provide a solution.
“I’ve always like him,” Manuel said of Francoeur. “I know he can hit.”
Francoeur says Manuel’s positive approach has helped.
“It’s all about confidence,” Francoeur said. “Charlie has backed me up and that’s been huge. I think I’m ready to break out. I can’t wait until it gets warm here. When June and July come, I expect to be driving the ball here.”
In the meantime, Francoeur has had issues at the plate.
“But I try to do other things when I’m out there,” Francoeur said.
Like throw out the tying run with two outs in the ninth inning.
“Yeah,” Francoeur said while laughing. “I did it for Pap. I did it for the team. That was a blast.”
Pap rewarded Francoeur for his perfect throw.
“He gave me a bottle of some hard stuff,” Francoeur said. “He didn’t have to do that but it was awesome. Everybody loves to win.”