Phillies

Adam Morgan turns the boos to cheers, saves it for Phillies

Adam Morgan turns the boos to cheers, saves it for Phillies

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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.”

More on the Phillies

Could this be Nick Williams' last hurrah with the Phillies?

Could this be Nick Williams' last hurrah with the Phillies?

Could this be Nick Williams' last hurrah as a Phillie?

Williams was called up from Triple A on Wednesday to replace Jay Bruce on the active roster. Bruce strained his right oblique Tuesday night and was placed on the injured list. Oblique strains tend to sideline a player for 3-5 weeks.

Williams was on a roll at Lehigh Valley, hitting .345 with a 1.032 OPS. Bruce's injury should result in Williams getting his most consistent playing time all season with the Phillies.

However, rookie outfielder Adam Haseley is ahead of Williams on the Phillies' depth chart. Manager Gabe Kapler said Wednesday that the Phillies still don't know what they have in Haseley, the 2017 first-round pick. This is a good chance to give Haseley regular reps and learn more about his major-league ceiling.

The Phillies do know what they have in Williams. In 877 career plate appearances with the Phils, Williams has hit .260/.319/.427. His .746 OPS has been three percent below the league average. He also has not proven to be an overly instinctive or strong defensive player. And the Phillies do not feel comfortable playing Williams in center field, whereas Haseley can play all three outfield spots.

Shortstop Jean Segura has missed two straight games with a bruised heel. In both games, Scott Kingery has started at shortstop. As a result, on Wednesday night the Phillies started Haseley in center, Williams in left and Bryce Harper in right field.

Who ever saw that outfield alignment coming in 2019?

When Segura is ready to return — and the Phillies continue to say the injury is not serious — he will return to shortstop. Kingery will play center field, second base when Cesar Hernandez sits and third base when Maikel Franco sits. 

When Kingery is in center, expect to see Haseley in left field. 

As for Williams, he has been a prime trade candidate all season because of the Phillies' crowded outfield. Even at this point, after injuries to Andrew McCutchen and Bruce, and the ineffectiveness of Roman Quinn, Williams is still in a position where he has to earn reps, Kapler said.

Williams will not be the centerpiece of a big trade. He could be a second or third player in a deal for a good player, or he could be another team's return for a rental player. The Giants would need more than Williams for Madison Bumgarner. But Williams probably gets you a lesser pitcher like a Tanner Roark.

The Phillies didn't expect to call Williams up this week. They wouldn't have if not for the Bruce injury. You have to wonder if keeping him at Triple A would have done more for his trade value. If he struggles again during a two-week major-league stint leading into the July 31 trade deadline, it would probably nullify a lot of that minor-league production to another team.

At the Yard podcast: SP trade targets, pitching staff in shambles, Bryce Harper's hot streak

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At the Yard podcast: SP trade targets, pitching staff in shambles, Bryce Harper's hot streak

Corey Seidman and Ricky Bottalico break down their favorite starting pitching trade targets, Bryce Harper's best few weeks as a Phillie and Hector Neris' recent struggles in the latest At the Yard podcast.

Plus, thoughts on Neris' suspension, and predictions for how players could be paid in the next CBA.