Reading, Pa.---In his highly anticipated Double-A debut, Maikel Franco impressed the 7,940 fans at FirstEnergy Stadim Thursday night, but the Reading Fightin Phils (30-41) dropped the series finale against the Portland Sea Dogs (37-34), 5-2.
Right from the start, the 20-year old proved why he's listed as the no.8 prospect in the Phillies organization after he charged a slow rolling ground ball and threw out the game's lead off hitter Matty Johnson. Franco finished the night by going 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of singles in his first game since being promoted to the Fightins earlier in the day.
Fellow top 10 prospect Jesse Biddle didn't fare as well. The southpaw struck out one and retired the side in the first inning, but encountered trouble in the second inning when the Sea Dogs jumped on the board by scoring two runs on three singles, a walk, and a sacrifice fly.
Reading answered in the bottom of the frame when Jim Murphy and Tyler Henson singled at the start of the inning to get on base for Sebastian Valle. The catching prospect tied the game up with a two-run single to left field.
Biddle's unlucky night continued into the next inning when he gave up a two-out solo shot to Tony Thomas as Portland began to pull away with the game. In the fourth and fifth inning, Biddle issued a combined four walks, but came away unscathed by striking out Johnson in the fourth and inducing Shaw to fly out in the fifth. A leadoff walk dealt to J.C. Linares gave way to Christian Vasquez's two-run bomb to left field that sealed the game in Portland's favor.
Reading's bullpen continued to be masterful in relief of the starting rotation. Mike Nesseth saw his ERA drop to 2.01 after motoring through two perfect innings. Kyle Simon also threw a scoreless ninth inning. The bullpen didn't allow a single run over the four-game series with Portland.
Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley made his second rehab start with the Fightins. The UCLA product played a complete game manning second base and went 0-5 at the plate. While struggling at the plate, Utley made a spectacular leaping grab at second base in the fourth inning.
The Reading Fightin Phils begin a three-game set with the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Friday at 7:05 p.m. RHP David Buchanan (3-7, 4.65 ERA) of Reading will take on Chris Gloor (5-2, 3.62 ERA) in the series opener. Tune into Oldies 1340 WRAW-AM, Service Electric's 2Sports, or MiLB.TV for the game broadcast with Fightins play-by-play announcer Anthony Oppermann starting at 6:05 p.m.
Fightins Fillers: Mike Nesseth extended his scoreless inning streak to 11.1 in seven appearances in June. He has limited opponents to a .166 AVG (6-for-36) over that streak while striking out eight and walking two. At the start of the stretch, his ERA was 4.09. It now sits at 2.01.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.