Phillies

Adam Morgan's career outing spoiled by pair of HRs in Phillies' loss

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Adam Morgan's career outing spoiled by pair of HRs in Phillies' loss

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ATLANTA — He’s only made two starts, but left-hander Adam Morgan has shown the kind of stuff that Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin is looking for.

Morgan made his second big-league start Friday and went seven innings. He took the loss because two of the five hits off him left the park. Those home runs allowed to veterans Jonny Gomes and Juan Uribe were the difference in the 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field (see Instant Replay).

“To see him pitch two starts, he looks like he’s been around a long time and knows how to pitch,” Mackanin said. “He mixes his pitches, he’s got that Bugs Bunny changeup. He’s got good command. I really like him. That’s another strong outing.”

Morgan (1-1) pitched seven innings, his longest start in the majors, and allowed five hits and two walks. He struck out five and threw 98 pitches, 59 of them for strikes.

“I thought about taking him out (for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning), but this is the kind of guy we’re looking for,” Mackanin said. “We need guys at 100 pitches that can go seven or eight innings. That makes my job easier when I don’t have to worry about the bullpen.”

Morgan was ambushed by Gomes, who hammered the first pitch he saw into the left field bleachers in the second inning. Morgan went on to retire 12 of the next 13 batters he faced after the Gomes homer. He allowed a walk to Nick Markakis, but that runner was quickly erased in an inning-ending double play.

The lefty did run into a bit of trouble with two outs in the sixth. After allowing a double to Cameron Maybin and walking Markakis, both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Morgan pitched out of the jam, getting Chris Johnson to ground out harmlessly to second base to end the inning.

But Uribe got to Morgan for a solo home run to lead off the seventh, which gave the Braves the 2-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish. It was the second solo shot allowed by Morgan on the night.

“I’m trying to simplify things and not overanalyze things,” Morgan said. “You want to keep the ball down. I struggled with that early, but as the game went on I felt I got the ball down. It wasn’t apparent on those home runs, but you live and learn.”

Mackanin was impressed with how Morgan was willing to push aside the two home run balls and stay in rhythm.

“I’m trying to learn about him,” Mackanin said. “[Pitching coach Bob McClure] wants to see how guys do when they’re tired. You’re not always going to be 100 percent. When you need that guy to stay in there and get out of trouble, that’s the kind of guy you’re looking for, who knows how to pitch when he’s tired.”

Morgan looked nothing like a guy who was 0-6 with a 4.74 ERA in 13 starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley.

“It goes to show you, for a guy to have that kind of numbers in the minor leagues and come here and make such an impression … I’m not going to totally jump on his bandwagon, but he’s got no fear, which is huge,” Mackanin said.

The Phillies also got a solid relief effort from Jeanmar Gomez, who got two outs in the eighth inning to keep it close. Gomez entered the game after Jake Diekman allowed back-to-back singles. Gomez got pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson to pop up, threw a wild pitch, and retired Uribe on a soft liner to the shortstop.

10 Years Ago Today: Charlie Manuel felt professional euphoria, personal grief

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10 Years Ago Today: Charlie Manuel felt professional euphoria, personal grief

Ten years ago this month, the Phillies won their second World Series title in franchise history. Over the next few weeks, Jim Salisbury will look back at team’s run through the NLCS and World Series.

As the final out settled into Carlos Ruiz's mitt and the Phillies clinched the NLCS with a 5-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 5, I looked down at the dugout from the press box. Players streamed out to congratulate each other on the field. Manager Charlie Manuel stayed behind and accepted handshakes and hugs from his staff.

October 2008 was the high point of Manuel’s career, but it came amidst personal grief. Five days before the Phillies won the NLCS in Dodger Stadium, Manuel’s mother, June, died at the age of 87 back in the family’s hometown of Buena Vista, Virginia.

Manuel spoke to his mother daily before her passing and she wanted him to stay with his team. He celebrated the Phillies’ punching their ticket to the World Series and the next day flew to Virginia for his mother’s funeral.

Phillies players adored Manuel because he never complicated things, never got in the way and always had their back. There was a sense of “Let’s win this for Chuck,” throughout that postseason and it shined brightly in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.

Mr. Bright Lights himself, James Calvin Rollins, fought back from an 0-2 count and led off the contest with a full-count home run against Chad Billingsley. Later in the game, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell had big hits.

Cole Hamels continued his coming out party with seven innings of one-run ball, giving him a total of 22 innings of three-run ball to that point of the postseason. He was named NLCS series MVP.

Hamels labored through a 26-pitch seventh inning in Game 5 and his warning light was flashing when Manuel went to the mound to speak with his pitcher with two outs, two men on base and dangerous Jeff Kent coming up in a four-run game. One swing could have made it a much different ballgame. Manuel looked into Hamels' eyes and the 24-year-old lefty convinced the skipper he was OK. With the count 2-2, Hamels reached back for everything he had on his 104th pitch of the night. Kent took a called third strike in what turned out to be the final at-bat of his great career.

The spectacular bullpen duo of Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge finished it off and at age 64, Charlie Manuel was headed to the World Series as manager of Philadelphia Phillies.

After the game, Manuel said he knew his mom was watching from above and he recalled his last conversation with her.

“Charles Jr.,” she told him, “you’re going to win these games and go to the World Series.”

Moms are always right.

Previously in this series

Bryce Harper? Manny Machado? Phillies should sit this one out

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Bryce Harper? Manny Machado? Phillies should sit this one out

Be bold.

That two-word mission statement set forth by Gabe Kapler became the center of the Phillies’ marketing push for the 2018 season. Many Phillies fans are hoping that mindset defines the team’s approach to this offseason as well.

The dots are easy to connect here: 

• The Phillies showed some promise this season before the wheels came off in mid-August. 

• Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will both be available in free agency.

• The Phillies have the financial wherewithal to land one of those two players.

When asked about the club’s future following the season, both general manager Matt Klentak and team president Andy MacPhail acknowledged the need to get better. But neither was willing to put the Phils’ eggs entirely in this year’s free agent basket.

You don’t want to pay sticker price if you can avoid it. This could just be a case of maintaining some leverage in future negotiations, but there are also legitimate reasons for the Phillies to temper their free-agent appetite.

I know nothing about building a house, but it seems logical that you ensure the foundation before getting to an addition. The Phillies are still in the foundation portion of their rebuild. That might be frustrating to fans that haven’t seen a postseason game at Citizens Bank Park in seven years, but that’s the reality.

Outside of Aaron Nola and possibly Rhys Hoskins, there’s no safe bet on the current roster to be an everyday contributor for a championship-caliber team. There are reasons to hope players like Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro and Roman Quinn will join that group, but they have not ascended there yet.

The anticipation surrounding this offseason reminds me somewhat of the mood following the 2002 season. After pushing the Braves to the final weekend of the 2001 season and clearing the deck of the Scott Rolen mess the following July, the Phillies went all-in prior to the 2003 campaign. Jim Thome, David Bell and Kevin Millwood were all acquired to push a team that had missed the postseason for nine straight seasons over the top.

It didn’t play out that way. Millwood was miscast as an ace. Bell was a basically a replacement-level player for most of his tenure. Thome was spectacular but eventually served as a Ryan Howard roadblock. As important, the talent around them was not as good as the front office originally hoped. It took another four years and an almost entirely reworked core to get the Phils back to October.

Admittedly, Harper and Machado are significantly younger than Thome was when he signed with the Phillies. They also have higher ceilings. There’s no doubt that adding one of these players makes the team better immediately. But neither player solely bridges the gap between the Phillies and top teams in Major League Baseball. 

Yet, making the commitment necessary to land a Harper or Machado changes the expectations. A team that makes that type of splash almost instinctively has to take on the mindset of a contender. That will certainly be the way the fan base sees it. And that can be dangerous. 

Icing is delicious. But it tastes best on a fully baked cake with all of the ingredients. Similarly, free agency works best when used to add a finishing touch.

You’re ready when you’re ready. And the Phillies aren’t ready for that yet. 

That might change next offseason. 2019 could call for boldness. But right now, the Phillies might be better served to sit this one out.

Be hesitant.

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