John Mayberry Jr. was given the start in centerfield after it was decided that Shane Victorino was going to begin his two-game suspension on Thursday night against the Diamondbacks. It was the former All-Pac Ten selection’s second start in a row and he took advantage with a home run off of Arizona’s ace, Ian Kennedy. Mayberry’s third-inning homer would prove to be the difference in Philadelphia’s 4-1 win over the Snakes.
Earlier this season, Ben Francisco was regarded as the guy who was going to step up in the outfield, but after Mayberry’s hot second-half, the tables have seemed to turn. The Gold Medalist posted four hits in eight at-bats against the NL West-leading Dbacks, but the success is nothing new for his recently-sizzling bat. Since the All-Star break, the Phillies’ fourth outfielder is batting .305 in 56 at bats. With five home runs after July 15th, the slugger has already tied his total from the first-half of the year.
After starting the season batting .345 in April, the man once referred to as Ryan Howard’s bash brother batted below the Mendoza line in May and only appeared in one game in June before being sent to the minors.
Whether the trip to the minors was a wake-up call for the 27-year-old or just a chance to re-polish some tools, the outfielder came back rejuvenated. In his first start since being recalled, Mayberry hit two home runs in four at-bats against the Marlins’ Anibel Sanchez. This game was the slugger’s coming out party and ever since, Manuel’s favorite back-up has seen significant playing time while Francisco has been riding the bench.
The spot-starter saw a stretch of eight consecutive starts in the beginning of July in which he posted ten hits, eight for extra bases. The double machine hit eight in July which was crucial in him getting out of Manuel’s doghouse and into the starting lineup at least one game a week.
The Phillies’ lineup is built around power and speed, and Mayberry fits right into the mold. He isn’t the Flying Hawaiian, but six stolen bases isn’t too shabby for the 6’6” monster. The speed part of the equation isn’t what excites me about the utility outfielder, what excites me is how the ball explodes off Mayberry’s bat like it’s allergic to maple. The righty’s slugging percentage is .643 since the All-Star Break.
In the past two months, the Phils have been on a tear. Everyone has contributed and Manuel’s go-to pinch hitter has done his part. After hitting a pinch hit homerun to tie up the game in the top of the ninth against the Rockies on August 1st, Mayberry began to gain some confidence as a pinch-hitter. Despite the sudden boost, Mayberry is still batting .250 (2-8) when pinch hitting since the All-Star break.
Pinch hitting is a technique that needs to be mastered and in a lineup with three All-Star outfielders, Mayberry must continue improving when given chances to bat late in games. As a starter, the former Stanford Cardinal has been solid, but come playoff time Manuel is going to need him to come off the bench cold and come through in some big spots. Whether he will be able to do that still remains to be seen, but the more chances he gets during the season, the better the probability he comes through with that clutch ninth inning hit in October.
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