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.