September 11, 2016
WASHINGTON – If Adam Morgan’s only mistake was pitching carefully to one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball in a tie game in the seventh inning, leading to a five-pitch walk from Bryce Harper, then it was difficult to point the finger his way on Sunday.
Sure, it led to Pete Mackanin walking out from the visiting dugout at Nationals Park to take out the left-hander. And the next hitter, Anthony Rendon, ripped a go-ahead double off Edubray Ramos.
It should be a lot easier to win games when your starter pitches into the seventh and holds the opposition to two runs or fewer. But it’s difficult to win games when your own offense is scoring two runs or fewer regularly.
And that’s exactly what’s led to the Phillies reaching 80 losses with three weeks still remaining on their schedule.
Morgan continued his resurgence since rejoining the rotation, but the Phillies were limited to solo home runs from Tommy Joseph and Freddy Galvis and they dropped a 3-2 loss at Washington. It was their third straight loss.
"On the bright side they can’t say we’re a pushover, our starters really battled and pitched well this whole four-game series," Mackanin said of his four young pitchers that started against Washington, Morgan, Alec Asher, Jake Thompson, and Jerad Eickhoff. "That’s really a good sign with these young pitchers. Freddy hit the home run, Joseph hit the home run. We just don’t seem to put hits together The usual answer on the hitting."
The Phillies have lost 10 of their last 13 games. They have scored two runs or fewer in seven of those 10 losses.
Dating back to August 21, the Phillies have dropped 14 of their last 19 games in the last three weeks. They have hit .195 as a team with a .262 OBP in those 19 games.
But the Phillies offensive problems aren't limited to the last three weeks, either: they entered Sunday hitting .223/.293/.360 in their last 50 games.
Perhaps newcomers Roman Quinn (who went 0-for-3 with a walk in his big league debut Sunday) and Jorge Alfaro will get a chance at regular playing time when the Phillies return to Citizens Bank Park this week (beginning Monday) for a nine-game homestand in an effort to send a pulse into a currently comatose offense.
"Yeah, Quinn is going to get a lot of playing time," Mackanin said. "Alfaro, we’ll give him some playing time. These four games remind me of early in the season when we’d come back and somehow win these games, and now we’re not winning these games. Our offense has sputtered."
• Adam Morgan has managed to turn around his season upon returning to the rotation in the last month armed with a two-seam fastball. Following Sunday, Morgan has a 3.86 ERA in six starts after being promoted from Triple-A (and those numbers are slightly skewed by one bad start). Morgan has held the opposition to two runs or fewer in five of those six games, perhaps putting himself back on the radar for a role in 2017.
"I'd like to think so," Morgan said. "The two-seam, changeup and being able to throw inside to righties. Knowing when to throw inside to righties has really been huge. I hope to keep it rolling."
"He’s starting to understand what kind of pitcher he is," Mackanin said. "He’s come to understand he’s not a power pitcher, he’s a finesse pitcher. He’s got to mix all his pitches"
Despite Morgan's turnaround, he is just 1-9 in his last 15 starts. The Phillies, who are 3-12 in those 15 games, have given Morgan just 25 starts in those games, an average of 1.67 runs per game.
• Ryan Howard came off the bench to pinch-hit in the pitcher's spot after Galvis hit a home run to bring the Phillies within one run in the eighth inning. When Nationals manager Dusty Baker countered by bringing in a left-hander, Oliver Perez, Mackanin stuck with Howard (even though he had a bench full of right-handed hitters, including Maikel Franco and Alfaro). And even though in a similar situation on Saturday he pulled left-handed hitting Cody Asche back in favor of a right-handed bat.
"I thought about Franco in the eighth," Mackanin said. "With nobody out, I decided to leave Howie out there to see if he could get into one. I could have pulled him back."
Howard struck out on four pitches. He is hitting .129 (4-for-31) with one home run and 13 strikeouts against left-handers this season.