There’s nowhere to hide when you’re a professional athlete and things aren’t going well on the field.
Particularly in Philadelphia.
Adam Morgan said he did not hear the boos when he trotted in from the bullpen with the game on the line in the ninth inning Wednesday afternoon. He was just focused on one thing — retiring Matt Carpenter, no easy task considering the St. Louis Cardinals’ leadoff man had almost personally beaten the Phillies the previous night.
Morgan was booed because the fans at Citizens Bank Park did not have much faith in him and his 15.75 ERA in the month of June. But manager Gabe Kapler had faith in Morgan and the pitcher had faith in himself. With the tying run standing on second base, Morgan retired the dangerous duo of Carpenter and Tommy Pham to wrap up a tense 4-3 win over the Cardinals (see first take).
The boos turned to cheers as Morgan became the seventh reliever to earn a save this season in Kapler’s be-ready-for-anything-boys bullpen.
After the game, Brother Gabe raved about Morgan’s perseverance and the job he did against “an incredible hitter” in Carpenter.
“Mo had a lot of poise and confidence and we went with our gut there and it worked out well for him,” Kapler said. “I’m so happy for him. He’s battled through a lot of struggles.”
The struggles included giving up a grand slam to lose a game in Wrigley Field and allowing a game-tying hit in the ninth inning of a game the Phillies eventually won Monday night.
Morgan is a humble Southern gentleman, a man of few words. Kapler is a loquacious Southern Californian. The manager put into words Morgan's escape from the abyss better than the pitcher.
“I think it’s a series of adjustments,” Kapler said. “It’s looking himself in the mirror. It’s having heart-to-heart talks with a lot of our staff and his teammates. It’s some trial and error. It’s getting through it by pitching and getting off the mound, and when I say that I mean practice on the mound, not just the game situations, finding himself through bullpen sessions, and a lot of hard work from (pitching coaches) Rick Kranitz and Chris Young. But ultimately the credit goes to Mo for what he did today.”
Morgan kept the ball from the final out as a souvenir of his first big-league save.
“It feels good,” he said. “It feels good to get a win. It feels good to go out there in any situation and get a win.
“I’ve struggled, but it’s never as bad as it is and it’s never as good as it is. You just have to keep going after it and working. You can’t quit. That’s not going to help anything.”
The Phillies got a big two-run homer from Cesar Hernandez in the fourth inning and a tie-breaking homer from smokin' Odubel Herrera in the seventh. With Seranthony Dominguez unavailable, Kapler used Austin Davis, Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano and Morgan to navigate the final three innings after Jake Arrieta exited a 3-3 game.
Arano started the ninth with a one-run lead and exited after allowing a one-out double. In a lefty-on-lefty matchup, Morgan used a slider to get Carpenter to pop out to third baseman Maikel Franco for the second out. (Franco made a long run into foul territory to make the play.) Morgan then got Pham on a ground ball to end the game.
Would Kapler still have gone to Morgan if there were two outs and no one on base?
“It’s a possibility,” Kapler said. “We’re reading and reacting to what’s happening on the field, so because there’s not an alternate universe, I can’t tell you for sure.”
One thing that could be said for sure is that the Phillies have won three straight series. They hadn’t beaten the Cardinals in a series since 2014. They blew leads in all three games, but got the job done.
“This was an emotional series for us because there’s a roller-coaster ride happening out there and we were put in some tough spots,” Kapler said. “We had some leads go back and forth in this series. That lineup is super tough. To have our pitchers run through them today was really impressive.”