Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Morgan Turns Corner As Phillies Beat Marlins

GAME RECAP: Phils Fluster Fish 4-3

Games are starting to run out on the Marlins' playoff chances, and the Phillies are thoroughly happy to take on the role of spoiler as they develop their own young talent. On Tuesday night, left-hander Adam Morgan kept Miami off stride, allowing one run in six innings, and Philadelphia held on for a 4-3 victory at Marlins Park. Odubel Herrera had two hits, reached four times and scored three runs for the Phillies, who have taken the first two games of the series, while the Marlins dropped their fifth straight and 10 of 11. With 23 games remaining, the Marlins are struggling to stay in reach of the second National League Wild Card spot, falling to six games behind St. Louis. "A big part of it is catching a team when they're scuffling," said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. "[The Marlins] have been scuffling, and we took advantage of it. These last two games reminds me of games we were winning early in the season where we'd scuffle, scratch and claw and come out on top." Morgan had lost nine straight decisions, the longest skid in the Majors this season, and hadn't won since beating the Phillies on May 10. Herrera recorded his 33rd multi-hit game of the season and 18th on the road. The sluggish Miami offense came to life in the eighth inning. Ichiro Suzuki belted his first career pinch-hit home run, a two-run drive to right off reliever Hector Neris. The Marlins threatened with two on and two out in the inning before Neris struck out Jeff Francoeur. And they threatened again in the ninth, putting runners on first and second with one out against closer Jeanmar Gomez after third baseman Maikel Franco's throwing error. But Gomez ended the threat by striking out Dee Gordon looking. The Phillies scored twice off Jose Urena in the first inning, on Tommy Joseph's sacrifice fly and Freddy Galvis' RBI single. Herrera had a triple and scored on Joseph's double, making it 3-0 in the third, and Galvis knocked in a run in the fifth. "This team is grinding it out, it was big," said Morgan, who came into the game getting an average of just 2.67 runs per nine innings of support over his nine-game losing streak -- lowest of any NL starter. Adeiny Hechavarria had an RBI single off Morgan in the fifth, and the Marlins received a boost in the inning when Giancarlo Stanton, reinstated on Tuesday after sustaining a Grade 3 left groin strain on Aug. 13, delivered a pinch-hit single. Stanton immediately was removed for pinch-runner Robert Andino, who was stranded.

  • For a team with recent trouble scoring runs, the Phillies wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. They put the first three batters of the game on base, with two of them scoring. Cesar Hernandez and Herrera opened with consecutive singles before Franco drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Joseph followed with a sacrifice fly, scoring Hernandez, and Galvis sent Herrera home with single to make it 2-0. "That was huge," Mackanin said of the fast start. "It was nice to jump out to a 2-0 start, and then we added on after that. But we still left 11 men on base. We had opportunities to score more runs and blow it wide open, but we didn't." Urena was tagged for four runs in five innings. "Early on, it didn't seem like we had a whole lot going on," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Jose, they got him early. He was out of the zone, and it basically seemed like he was up more today than we'd seen in the last couple of outings. More balls up in the zone, more offspeed up in the zone, more unfavorable counts, things like that."
  • In addition to his contributions at the plate, Herrera made a nice running catch of a long fly ball in center field off the bat of Jeff Francoeur in the second inning that kept the Marlins off the scoreboard. That's because the next batter, J.T. Realmuto, lined what could have been an RBI double. Instead it became just a two-out hit, and Realmuto was left stranded. "Defense made some awesome plays behind me, helped me minimize the damage," a grateful Morgan said.
  • In his remarkable career, Ichiro has collected 3,019 big league hits in 9,646 at-bats. On Tuesday night, the 42-year-old celebrated another first. When he connected off Neris in the eighth inning, it was his first career pinch-hit home run. Ichiro's drive over the wall in right field pulled Miami to within 4-3. According to Statcast™, the home run landed a projected 369 feet away with an exit velocity of 97 mph. It also was Ichiro's first home run of the season. Ichiro is now one hit shy of matching Rafael Palmeiro (3,020) for 26th on MLB's all-time list. "It gives us a little bit of life," Mattingly said. "So that was obviously big for us."
Jeremy Hellickson (10-8, 3.88 ERA) takes the mound on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. ET to wrap up the series at Marlins Park. The right-hander is looking to shake off his last two outings in which he gave up a combined nine runs over 10 innings.


Ending The Skid – It was a long time coming, but Phillies starter Adam Morgan got just enough run support to come out a winner in Tuesday's 4-3 decision over the Marlins. The lefty went six innings and gave up just one run on five hits. He struck out five, and for the second consecutive outing, he did not walk a batter. Morgan came into the game having lost nine consecutive decisions while posting a 6.72 ERA over his last 15 games, which included 13 starts and two relief appearances. It was the longest losing streak in the Majors this season, and longest by a Phillies pitcher in a single season since Kyle Abbott, who dropped 11 consecutive decisions from April 10-July 6, 1992. Hugh Mulcahy holds the franchise record for consecutive losses. He dropped 12 straight from Aug. 4-Sept. 23, 1940. Continuing to develop a two-seam fastball, which Morgan began throwing upon his recall from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, is making a big difference in his game. "The two-seamer, the changeup and he's keeping the ball down better," said Phils manager Pete Mackanin. "He needed to make a change and pitch differently than he had in the past, and he's starting to do that." The new pitch is paying dividends for Morgan, who said he still has some work to do with it. "It definitely can get better, more consistent. For now, I'll take it," said Morgan, who struggled with the idea of adding a new pitch mid-season. "You've got to buy into it. You can't go into it half-hearted. It was one of those things where I needed a pitch that goes away to righties and into lefties that gets them to mis-hit it." What makes Morgan's big league streak even more unusual is that upon being called up from Triple-A, Morgan had a six-game win streak going. He allowed three runs or fewer in each of those six starts with the IronPigs, and had a 2.72 ERA over that span. Morgan was named International League Pitcher of the Week prior to his recall for the week of Aug. 1-7, after going 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings. "It's been the same game plan; keep it down, keep it simple," said Morgan, whose game plan for the Marlins remained just as simple. "Don't try to do anything too crazy. This is an aggressive team. I just went out and executed." Morgan said he stayed focused through the tough times as hard as that was at times. "I wouldn't say that I lost confidence," he said. "It did get tough there for a while. But you can't lose confidence; you can't lose belief in yourself. You do that and this game will kick you out real fast." Besides, it hasn't been all on Morgan. He'd only gotten 20 runs of support in 67 1/3 innings. That's 2.67 runs of support per nine innings, the lowest for any National League starter. On Tuesday, four runs were enough to give Morgan his first win since May 10.

Asher Returns – Phillies utility player Darnell Sweeney was outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Monday, and it was made official after Tuesday's 4-3 win that right-handed pitcher Alec Asher will take his place on the roster. Asher, just off an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use, will get the start on Thursday when the Phillies open a four-game series in Washington. The 24-year-old from Lakeland, Fla., was a fourth-round pick by Texas in the 2012 Draft and acquired by the Phillies as part of the Cole Hamels trade. With Phils starter Vince Velasquez shut down for the rest of the season and the team in need of arms to finish out the year, Asher could be an option to fill that spot in the rotation. Asher scuffled with the Phillies late last season, posting an 0-6 record with a 9.31 ERA in seven starts. He got a no-decision in the only game the Phillies won during that span. Over 29 innings, Asher yielded 30 runs on 42 hits, including eight homers. He struck out 16 and walked 10. Opposing batters hit .339 over that stretch. In five Minor League seasons with the Rangers and Phils, "The Big Cat," as the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder is also known, has put together a 32-33 record with a 3.39 ERA. This season in the Minors, he went 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA, with 46 strikeouts and 10 walks over 64 2/3 innings. "I haven't seen him," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I've heard he's now throwing a very good two-seam fastball, which he didn't have last year. I'm anxious to see him." Asher fills the 40-man roster spot opened up when Sweeney was outrighted. Sweeney cleared waivers and will finish out the season with the IronPigs, where he hit .232 in 443 plate appearances this season. Sweeney was acquired by the Phils as part of the Chase Utley trade, but the 25-year-old struggled last season with the team, hitting just .176 in 37 games. He played second and third base, as well as all three outfield positions. "He's got to hit, it's pretty simple," Mackanin said. "Improve his defense. At this level you have to produce. Numbers matter and he doesn't have numbers." Mackanin said that while Sweeney still possesses great potential, it hasn't been realized yet. "At some point you have to live up to your potential," Mackanin said.

Howard Nominated – Ryan Howard's legacy is secure, both for his works on the field with the Phillies and off the field in Philadelphia. Howard has been nominated for Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award. The league announced the 30 club nominees Tuesday for its annual recognition of a player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field. Each club nominates one player to be considered for the award in tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others. Wednesday marks the 15th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which MLB established to honor Clemente's legacy and to officially acknowledge local club nominees of the Roberto Clemente Award. Clubs playing at home on Wednesday will recognize their local nominees as part of Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies. Visiting clubs will honor their nominees before another September home game. Beginning on Roberto Clemente Day, fans are encouraged to participate in the new process of selecting the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award by posting any nominee's voting hashtags to MLB's official social media accounts, @MLB on Twitter and Howard's hashtag is #VoteHoward. As part of the league-wide celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and official dugout lineup cards, and a special tribute video will be played in ballparks. The original "Commissioner's Award" for philanthropic service was renamed in 1973 in honor of Clemente, the Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Howard's works in the community are almost too numerous to mention. He and his wife, Krystle, created The Ryan Howard Big Piece Foundation in 2013. The foundation focuses on "engaging children, specifically those who lack athletic and educational opportunities, in the fundamental area of literacy." Its first program, "The Ryan Howard Reading Challenge," challenged students in a Philadelphia public school to read 20 minutes a day, seven days a week. The program resulted in more than one million minutes of reading by students, which Howard used as an incentive to award the school a grant for a new reading room. The interactive, baseball-themed room, dubbed "Howard's Homeroom," is filled with books, computers and iPads for students to read, create and dream. Howard raised $75,000 to provide the room by holding events on his off-days. Of course, the new Phillies Urban Youth Academy was unveiled this summer in South Philadelphia, and it was named the Ryan Howard Training Center. "It's been our passion to give back to our community, especially when it relates to baseball and education," Howard said in July. "It's an extreme honor to be part of something we hope will help thousands and thousands of kids." Ryan and Krystle wrote a children's book series called "Little Rhino." Howard and Krystle invited students for a pregame "Little Rhino Read-Along," where he and his teammates acted out scenes from one of the books. The performance shared the joy of reading with K-5 grade students and raised funds for The Phillies Urban Youth Academy. Ryan and the Phillies will soon announce his significant and long-term commitment toward the construction of the Academy's educational building. Ryan's reading program will also be announced as a featured part of the curriculum.

Today In Phils History – In a battle of the titans, the Phillies and Pirates faced off on this day in 1901 with the Phillies having lost 10 in a row and the Pirates having lost 9 (the Phillies won the game). 10 years later, in his rookie year, Pete Alexander defeated 44 year old Cy Young who was playing his last season in MLB. With a homerun off of Don Newcombe at Crosley Field in 1959, Wally Post had recorded at least 1 homerun in every NL park. Greg Luzinski hit his 1st MLB homerun into the 500 level at the Vet on this day in 1971. That same day, Mike Anderson appeared in the resumed portion of the game which was started on August 1st and suspended in the 12th inning… given the original start date of the contest this is considered his first game despite appearing in 7 games the week prior. The following season Steve Carlton defeated St. Louis for his 100th career win and 23rd victory of the season setting a new franchise record for lefties… he also brought his season strikeout total to 272 surpassing Jim Bunning's team mark of 268 set in 1965. In 1996, Scott Rolen is hit in the hand ending his season 1 at bat shy of losing his rookie status… he would win rookie of the year the following season. The next year, Expos shortstop Mark Grudzielanek hit his 49th double of the year against the Phillies breaking the NL record set by Phillie Dick Bartell in 1932. Finally, 1 notable MLB debut occurred on this day in 1980 when Marty Bystrom took the mound for the Phillies.

The Phillies are currently 62-76 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 55-65-1 on this day. I expect the Phillies to finish in the bottom half of the division but not last in the NL East by finishing the season with a 77-85 record.

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