Phillies

Adam Morgan finally falters in Phillies' loss but remains confident in bullpen role

Adam Morgan finally falters in Phillies' loss but remains confident in bullpen role

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Adam Morgan went to his favorite pitch, the one that has done the most damage in his remarkable second-half run. 

The changeup was slightly misplaced this time, however, and it cost the Phillies the game. 

Asdrubal Cabrera hit a three-run shot in the 11th inning, the first homer allowed by Morgan since July 31, and the New York Mets outlasted the Phils, 7-4, in a four-hour, 10-minute marathon on a brisk and blustery Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park (see observations)

“Tough loss on a cold night,” Pete Mackanin said after his second-to-last game as Phillies manager.

The season ends Sunday, after which Mackanin will move into a front office role (see story)

The Phillies’ late-season success — they dropped to 15-13 in September — has come thanks to plenty of help from Morgan. After nearly being released in spring training and losing his job as a starter, Morgan has become a valuable lefty out of the bullpen that can get righties out, too. 

He came in Saturday night having given up two runs over his past 26 innings with 32 strikeouts. And he was the victim of some tough luck this time. 

Morgan gave up a single to Phillip Evans with one out and then saw two pitches that were clear strikes by the computerized strike zone system called balls before walking Nori Aoki. Morgan then struck out Jose Reyes before the switch-hitting Cabrera came to the plate. 

The 0-1 changeup rode up in the strike zone, and Cabrera pounced for his 14th home run. Unlike Rhys Hoskins’ towering fly in the 10th that died at the warning track thanks to the stiff wind blowing in, Cabrera’s line drive made it just far enough to clear the wall in left-center. 

“He’s had such a great run. He’s been very impressive,” Mackanin said of Morgan. “He just got a changeup up. I was surprised the ball went out because Hoskins hit that ball probably harder than Cabrera did. But he probably got it up in the air too much and the wind got a hold of it.”

Hoskins had tied the game with a two-out, run-scoring single to left in a two-run seventh for his 48th RBI in 49 games. 

Maikel Franco’s third home run in four games, a solo shot in a two-run second, put the Phillies up 2-0 against Mets starter Seth Lugo. 

But Hoskins was the only player to have a hit after the third inning. And this time the bullpen wasn’t perfect. 

“I’m still going to use it. It’s one of my strengths,” Morgan said of his changeup. “Moving forward, I’m just going to try to erase that from my memory and keep going.”

The Phillies rallied after a rough outing by right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who was making his third start in an audition for a 2018 job. Alvarez, the former NL All-Star with the Marlins who had been out of the majors for two years because of shoulder surgeries, walked six in 4 2/3 innings. 

Alvarez, who declined to speak to reporters after the game, was charged with three runs and three hits with no strikeouts. He had a 4.30 ERA in his three starts. 

Mackanin removed catcher Jorge Alfaro after he got banged up tagging out Juan Lagares following a great throw by rightfielder Nick Williams in the fifth. 

“Alfaro made a great tag, but he hit the back of his head on the ground,” Mackanin said. “I just took him out for precautionary reasons. I think he’s going to be fine. The doctor checked him.”

Alfaro was likely to sit Sunday anyway when Mackanin manages the Phillies for a final time and Morgan hopes to get one more chance. 

“I’m real proud, but It’s just reality, nobody’s perfect,” he said. “It was just kind of a bad hit that happened at a bad time. But it’s been fun.”

Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Such an enigmatic group, these Phillies.

How crazy is it that on an afternoon when the Phils scored 10 runs to finish off an unlikely series victory, the leftover taste was a sour one because of the bullpen.

Gabe Kapler tried to show confidence in Hector Neris in the ninth inning for the second straight game. It worked Saturday but not Sunday.

After needing eight pitches in a 1-2-3 save Saturday, Neris allowed four runs and two homers in two-thirds of an inning to turn a 10-5 lead into a 10-9 game (see first take)

Kapler was forced to turn to Jake Thompson, who threw one pitch to get the save.

At this point, how can Kapler go back to Neris late in a close game? He attempted to use Neris in low-leverage situations — prior to Saturday, each of his last six outings came in games well in-hand — but it hasn't worked. 

Neris has a 6.00 ERA and has allowed eight home runs in 27 innings. To put that in perspective, Aaron Nola has allowed six home runs in 95⅓ innings. 

Neris' velocity was crisp Sunday, reaching as high as 98 mph. But the location, again, was off. Too many pitches in the middle of the plate.

The Phillies have a 4.56 ERA in the ninth inning. That's fourth-worst in the majors and second-worst in the NL, ahead of only the Marlins. Remove Neris from the equation and the Phils' ninth-inning ERA is 3.52.

The Phillies' bullpen was supposed to be a strength. But Pat Neshek hasn't pitched, Neris has fallen flat, Tommy Hunter is only starting to get into a groove and Luis Garcia is on the DL after several rough outings in a row.

Kapler must be careful of overusing Seranthony Dominguez, who factors into their ninth-inning plans far beyond this year. But aside from Dominguez, the only relievers the Phillies have who've been reliable more often than not are Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano. 

It's a precarious position to be in, yet the Phils are 12-6 in one-run games this season. Only the Mariners, Yankees, Brewers and Braves have a better winning percentage in such games. 

Nick Pivetta is on the hill Monday at home against the Cardinals. The Phillies badly need a long outing from him after their starters accounted for just 57% of the innings in Milwaukee.

It would be the perfect time for Pivetta to get back on track after allowing 13 runs in his last 14 innings and failing to pitch into the sixth four starts in a row.

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Maikel Franco picks up Aaron Nola for unlikely Phillies series win

Maikel Franco picks up Aaron Nola for unlikely Phillies series win

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The Phillies didn't get the kind of start from Aaron Nola they've been accustomed to but were still able to finish off an impressive series win Sunday by beating the Brewers 10-9.

As bad as they looked Friday night, this turned out to be a strong week for the Phils, who have won four of six games and two straight series over the Rockies and Brewers. 

The Phils are 37-32 and have been at least two games over .500 every day since April 13. The Brewers still own the best record in the National League at 42-29.

After this quick trip to Milwaukee, the Phillies are back home Monday through Wednesday against the Cardinals before going to Washington for the weekend. After that, they have an eight-game homestand.

Franco connects

Maikel Franco hasn't played much lately but got the start Sunday with J.P. Crawford playing shortstop in place of Scott Kingery.

In his second at-bat against right-hander Chase Anderson, Franco connected on a hanging, middle-in curveball for a two-run homer to left field.

In the seventh inning, Franco gave the Phillies some insurance with a rare single to right-center in a high-pressure situation. Franco's line drive drove in two more runs as he completed a four-RBI day. 

In nine career games at Miller Park, Franco is 14 for 30 (.467) with four homers and 14 RBI.

He's never going to be a high-OBP guy, but Franco can still pound mistakes here and there. The Phillies think Crawford has more upside offensively and defensively, but right now, Franco is the more effective option between the two because of this ability to occasionally run into a two-run homer.

The league knows what Franco is. He's likely never going to have significant trade value because of his .298 career on-base percentage in just under 1,900 plate appearances. But he does have mid-20s home run power. He has nine this season after hitting 24 last season and 25 the year before.

Neris … not so good

Kapler turned to Hector Neris in the ninth inning for the second day in a row and this time, it didn't work.

Neris gave up four runs with the Phillies up by five and was pulled with two outs for Jake Thompson.

Neris allowed home runs to Jesus Aguilar and Eric Thames, with Thames' three-run shot coming at the literal four-hour mark of the game — 4:00:00.

This game lasted 4 hours and 3 minutes, making it the Phils' longest non-extra-inning game since July 6, 2015 at Dodger Stadium.

The Phillies' ERA in the ninth inning this season is now 4.56 — fourth-worst in the majors and second-worst in the NL ahead of only the Marlins.

Hoskins stays hot

After demolishing a 431-foot home run Saturday, Rhys Hoskins hit another two-run shot to left in his first at-bat on Father's Day.

This one wasn't hit quite as hard but was a majestic, high shot that just kept carrying and carrying.

Hoskins is seeing the ball well. In a later at-bat, he hung with a low-and-away curveball and just missed the barrel, flying out to left field.

Since fracturing his jaw, Hoskins is 11 for 30 (.367) with three doubles, four homers, 11 RBI and four walks in nine games.

Williams' decisive blow

The half-inning after Nola exited his shortest start in over a year, Nick Williams delivered the key blow for the Phillies, a two-run single up the middle with the bases loaded.

Williams has had a productive week, going 6 for 13 with two doubles, a homer, four RBI, two walks and two hit by pitches in his last five games.

Up next

Pitching matchups for the Cardinals series:

Monday: Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.25) vs. Miles Mikolas (7-2, 2.43)

Tuesday: Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.74) vs. Luke Weaver (3-6, 4.52)

Wednesday: Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.33) vs. Michael Wacha (8-2, 3.24)

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