Saturday, July 4, 2015

Phillies Waste Solid Homecoming By Morgan

GAME RECAP: Braves Overpower Phillies 2-1

The Braves entered Friday's series opener with the Phillies as Major League Baseball's worst home run hitting team, but the long ball proved to be the difference as Jonny Gomes and Juan Uribe both connected off of Phillies starter Adam Morgan to lead Atlanta to a 2-1 win. The homers backed up yet another solid home performance from Julio Teheran, who allowed just one unearned run over seven innings. Teheran was far from flawless, as he worked around Philadelphia baserunners throughout the evening, but still managed to lower his home ERA to 2.04. "It's one of those things you can't explain," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez about the difference in Teheran's home and road numbers. "Maybe we'll fly him in the day of his starts [on the road], just fly him in that day. He can sleep in his bed, maybe that will help. Morgan had a solid outing for Philadelphia as well, but the two pitches to Gomes and Uribe prevented him from getting back-to-back wins to start his career, with minimal run support behind him. He finished his night after seven innings and just two runs allowed, while striking out five batters and walking two. "This is the kind of guy we're looking for," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "We need a guy that at 100 pitches can go seven or eight innings. That's what we want. Then it makes my job easier. I don't have to worry too much about the bullpen." The much-maligned Braves bullpen continued the solid performance it has recently shown -- 2.12 ERA in the last 14 days entering Friday -- as Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson combined to shut the door on the Phillies with two shutout innings.

  • Braves second baseman Jace Peterson had to rush on a ground ball from Morgan in the fifth inning, and Chris Johnson couldn't handle his high throw at first base. Morgan scored from second after being moved over on a sacrifice bunt and driven in on a Cesar Hernandez single to right. Morgan was initially given his first Major League hit on the play, but an inning later Peterson was charged with a throwing error. "That's a tough play when you're coming in as a second baseman," Gonzalez said. "That may be the hardest play any second baseman can make. And I thought he made a nice scoop. Sometimes that second baseman and the first baseman get too close to each other. And even CJ will tell you it's hard for him to see the ball where it's coming from. But Petey, there's no complaints there the way he's playing."
  • Morgan notched the longest start by a Phillies pitcher not named Cole Hamels since May 14, when Aaron Harang pitched eight innings against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. Phillies starters had not pitched six innings in 13 of 16 games since June 15. "He looks like he's been around a long time," Mackanin said. "He knows how to pitch. He mixes his pitches. He's got a Bugs Bunny changeup that I really like. He's got good command. That's another strong outing."
  • Hernandez curiously stopped running between first and second when he scored Morgan on a single to right field in the fifth inning to tie the game, and was tagged out. It prevented a potentially bigger inning. Later, instant replay overturned Cameron Rupp's leadoff double in the seventh. For a team that has trouble scoring runs, they were two big baserunning outs at second base. "That was close," Mackanin said about Rupp's play. "I don't what that might have lead to. But then Cesar made a baserunning mistake. I don't know what he … I think he was trying to go to second, then decided too late that he couldn't make it. He got caught in no-man's land."
  • Rupp started off the top of the seventh inning with what seemed to be a leadoff double to left field. Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons made a strong throw from foul territory in left field to Peterson at second and, after a 2-minute, 22-second review, the initial safe call was overturned and Rupp was ruled out. "That was a nice job by our video guy here to call out and say, 'Hey, challenge that,'" Gonzalez said. "And you never know when the go in the headset which way New York is going to come up with it, but they overturned it and it was a big out."
  • Hernandez has an eight-game hitting streak. He is hitting .455 (15-for-33) in that stretch. Since June 21, Hernandez leads the big leagues with 21 hits.
Right-hander Kevin Correia starts the second game of the three-game series Saturday night at Turner Field. He is 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts since joining the Phillies. Correia has not pitched more than 5 2/3 innings in any of those starts, which is something that needs to happen with the bullpen being overworked. Atlanta counters with Alex Wood, who is coming off of his best start of the season. In 7 1/3 shutout innings against the Pirates, Wood matched a season-high eight strikeouts while working around five hits and no walks.


Coming Home – Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan grew up about 30 minutes north of Turner Field, so he probably imagined himself pitching in the big leagues in front of his family and friends. Those aspirations became reality Friday night in a 2-1 loss to the Braves. "It was fun," Morgan said after pitching seven innings. "It was definitely something I won't forget. A lot of people that couldn't make it to Philly for my debut [June 21] were here. We would always just come over here, tailgate in the blue lot, buy the $5 will-call tickets and just watch the game." Morgan and his friends probably participated in the tomahawk chop a few times. He found it used against him Friday. "I knew it was coming," he said. "I really prepared myself for it. It was kind of cool. I hummed along with it." Morgan, 25, allowed five hits, two runs, two walks and struck out five. He allowed first-pitch home runs to Jonny Gomes and Juan Uribe in the second and seventh innings, respectively, to take the loss. But Morgan gave the Phillies rotation something it had seriously lacked in more than two weeks: length. Morgan's seven innings were the most by a Phillies starter not named Cole Hamels since May 14, when Aaron Harang pitched eight innings against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. Phillies starters had not pitched six or more innings in 13 of 16 games since June 15, which had put a tremendous strain on the bullpen. Phillies relievers had thrown 65 2/3 innings in those 16 games -- only 12 1/3 innings fewer than Phillies starters -- the most of any bullpen in baseball. The bullpen should buy Morgan dinner for his efforts. "This is the kind of guy we're looking for," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "We need a guy that at 100 pitches can go seven or eight innings. That's what we want. Then it makes my job easier. I don't have to worry too much about the bullpen." Gomes' homer in the second handed the Braves a 1-0 lead. Morgan retired the side in order in the third and fifth innings, becoming the first Phillies starter since June 15 to have two 1-2-3 innings in a start. Uribe then hit a first-pitch slider for a homer in the seventh to make it 2-1. "I was very comfortable going out there for the seventh inning," Morgan said. "I just didn't execute." Mackanin could have pulled Morgan for a pinch-hitter in the seventh, but he stuck with him for a very specific reason. "I'm trying to learn about him," Mackanin said. "[Pitching coach] Bob McClure is big on that. He wants to see guys when they get tired to see what they do with it. Because you're not always going to feel 100 percent. You're going to get tired. When you need that guy to stay in there and get out of trouble this is the kind of guy you're looking for."

Utley Aiming For Late July – Chase Utley is hopeful he can be back on the field before the end of the month. The Phillies second baseman received a cortisone injection in his right ankle June 24, a day after he landed on the 15-day disabled list. "It's definitely given me some relief," Utley said before Friday's game against the Braves at Turner Field. Utley has remained off the ankle since the injection, but he said he will begin moving on it a little beginning Saturday. He said he could take some ground balls as early as next weekend's series against the Giants in San Francisco, but, he said, "it's not like I have to take ground balls there. It depends how it's going." So for the moment Utley will continue to rehab with the team at least through the All-Star break. "I would like to be in some games before [August]," he said. "But the most important thing is being healthy. There's no point in rushing it." Utley sprained his ankle in January, and a slow recovery forced him to miss the beginning of Grapefruit League games in Spring Training. He opened the season in the Phillies' lineup, but has hit .179 (39-for-218) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games. Utley has a $15 million club option for next season. It automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances. He has 249 plate appearances through 82 games, which puts him slightly behind that pace. Obviously, the longer he is on the DL the more difficult it will be to trigger the option. It seems like a moot point anyway. Cesar Hernandez has played well in Utley's absence. He is hitting .284 (46-for-162) with 10 doubles, one triple, one home run, 17 RBIs and a .748 OPS. If Hernandez had enough plate appearances to qualify, he would rank 10th out of 23 qualified second baseman in OPS. It is unclear how Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin will handle playing time at second base upon Utley's return, although Mackanin said Hernandez has earned the right for more playing time.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 27-55. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance so far this season, this could end up being the worst team in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 87-88-0 on this day.

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