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April 12, 2016

Morton, Goeddel (and the bullpen, really) lead Phillies to victory

Tyler Goeddel dropped his bat, dashed up the first base line, and sneaked a peak toward shortstop. The rookie, Rule 5 pick thought it was good enough to give him his first major league hit off the bat.

"But then (Alexei) Ramirez had a good effort on it and I thought he might snag it," the 23-year-old Goeddel said of his single to lead off the seventh inning of a scoreless game. "I was definitely happy when it got through. It felt like it’d been a year since my last hit."

Goeddel would add his first big league run a few minutes later, too, to give Charlie Morton all the support he'd need in an eventual 3-0 win over the San Diego Padres.

Morton, who was charged with six runs in Cincinnati a week ago, blitzed through the Padres lineup early with a fastball that was regularly touching 95-MPH. He only allowed two base runners to reach in the game’s first three innings and escaped a dicey fourth inning when Ryan Howard dropped a routine throw from second on would-be inning-ending double play and Maikel Franco fouled up a caught stealing when he fumbled a ball while covering second on a shift.

Franco’s defense wasn’t all bad, though.

Morton looked a lot more like the pitcher who had a 3.52 ERA in 46 starts with the Pirates in 2013-14 and a lot less like the guy who struggled last year (4.81 ERA) and last week in Cincinnati. The difference? Pitching coach Bob McClure implored the 32-year-old to use his curveball more often.

"I didn't know we were divulging secrets," Morton joked. "The fact is that lefties hit my sinker. And it has to be located really well and it kind of gives me some wiggle room if I just throw my curveball. My curveball is pretty good. So if I can throw it for strikes, that gets them off my fastball and then I throw a little cutter, a change-up, that’ll help."

While Morton was throwing up zeroes on the top half of the scoreboard, Erlin hadn’t allowed a hit until Freddy Galvis singled with two outs in the fifth.

It was a rare hit from the bottom half of Mackanin’s lineup, where Galvis was banished after failing out of the lineup’s top spot for the last week. Entering Tuesday, the three players slotted behind Carlos Ruiz and in front of Morton in the lineup – Galvis, Peter Bourjos and Goeddel – were a combined 9-for-54 (.166) on the season.

If you add in two of the other players Mackanin could have played in one of their spots instead – Cedric Hunter and Emmanuel Burris – it totaled up to five players on the team that were hitting a combined .138 (11-for-80) with 20 strikeouts and two walks after a week’s worth of games.

But Goeddel, the Rule 5 pick and former Tampa Bay Rays first-round pick, made the bottom of the order look alright on Tuesday night. He collected what was just the second hit off Erlin and scored what was the game’s only run until the Phils tacked two more on in the eighth, when the Padres botched a would-be double play. (Apparently botching double plays was a thing Tuesday). 

The Phillies offense, which has averaged three runs per game, was good enough. Goeddel played the role of hero.

"It's good to see him get that first hit, get it out of the way, take that monkey off his back," Mackanin said of Goeddel, who came into the night 0-for-5.

The unsung hero of the night? The bullpen. (Imagine saying that a week ago).

After Morton's strong effort (6 2/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K) the bullpen threw up zeroes for the fourth straight game. Hector Neris celebrated after striking out pinch-hitter Wil Myers with two runners on and two outs in the seventh, David Hernandez rebounded from a leadoff walk in the eighth, and Jeanmar Gomez converted his third save in three chances in the last four days to keep the good times rolling for the relief corps.

Here's a fun fact: after allowing 15 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings (12.66 ERA) in the Phillies first four games, the bullpen has allowed zero earned runs in 10 2/3 innings in their last four games. 

"I think the uncertainty of roles had something to do with it," Mackanin said of the 'pen's turnaround. "Nobody stepped during spring training and rose above the pack and I think everybody kind of felt a lot of pressure to impress. ... Now they’ve got their confidence back and we feel a lot better about it."

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21