Opinion

In deflating loss to Cubs, one pitch changes a lot



Adam Morgan

Some pitchers throw hundreds, maybe thousands of pitches in one season. But sometimes, maybe unfairly, it’s just one pitch that defines their existence in the major leagues.

That’s how it went Wednesday night. Adam Morgan was brought into the ninth inning of a 5-3 lead over the Cubs. Chicago had two men on base, and immediately he walked the first batter he faced, pinch hitter Ian Happ. But then he pitched well to Ben Zobrist, and forced him into a weak groundout that kept Chicago from scoring. So one poor result and one good result.

Then, against Jason Heyward, he fell behind 2-0 before throwing a good first strike and a risky second strike that Heyward fouled off. That led to a minute of pauses – a run through signs, a mound visit. It seemed like the most important pitch of the season. It also seemed like it was taking far too long, with too many second guesses, to finish this game. But Morgan had his pitch. Jorge Alfaro was ready to receive it. He stretched. He pitched. And the fastball right down the Magnificent Mile was hit a magnificent mile into the Chicago night sky. Immediately the fans erupted. The ball was only halfway up at this point. It was over.

This kind of win might be said to turn around a team’s fortunes, sometimes defines an entire season. The Cubs were 33-24, definitely playing well but just now beginning to be the Cubs most experts figured they would be – the team that would coast with the National League Central crown in hand. The Brewers are still out in front, but on Wednesday it looked as if Chicago was about to blitz past everyone and stamp their place in the postseason.

Then there’s the Phillies. They’ve been scuffling a bit. The offense hasn’t produced. They were swept in San Francisco. Jake Arrieta got loud about shifts. Beat reporters got loud about podcasters. It seems the June swoon we all were fearing has already dropped us into our beds comatose. It’s June 7.

But the thing to remember here is it was one pitch. Yes, it was a critical pitch in a critical situation where the outcome could define the entire game. And it did. And how. But it was one pitch. And Adam Morgan didn’t make his pitch. Clearly.

This season Morgan is carrying a 3.45 ERA in 15.2 innings. You’d look at that and ask yourself why he was pitching in that big spot. Well, before Heyward hit his grand slam that ERA was 2.35. Relievers are your best friend one day, your sworn enemy the next, and numbers don’t really tell the story.

Last night I tweeted, more or less, that Morgan wasn’t a guy a contending team puts in that situation. I think that’s true – Morgan is supposed to get lefties out in crucial situations for this team, and what I see is a pitcher who does fine most of the time, but sometimes he just throws the wrong pitch or throws a pitch in the wrong location. The numbers (again, which don’t really tell the story) say that lefties – before Heyward – were 8-for-27 against Morgan. That’s an average of .296. Yes 27 at bats is a small sample, but we’re talking about relief pitchers used in very specialized spots, and so an average like .296 doesn’t work there. My eye tells me Morgan doesn’t work in that big spot. The stats seem to back that up.

And yet that happened. Morgan was in to face Heyward. But imagine if Heyward is a little late on that pitch? He skies it to right and Aaron Altherr catches it, and Morgan gets the save and we’re not talking about any of this. Meanwhile lefties are .285 against Morgan, which is still too high but it doesn’t mean anything to us because we didn’t see an example of a lefty hitting Morgan like that. But don’t you think Morgan might give up some bad hit later on? Maybe. Maybe not. The point is we only talk about this because Heyward squared up that ball and slammed it into the night.

Last night sucked, at least in the end. Altherr had tied the game with a big home run, then Dylan Cozens hit his first homer to give the Phils a lead in the ninth. And if the Phils win that game, we write about how this kind of win propels a team to being a contender all season, that they needed this big character win to show the Cubs and the league they weren’t going away. Instead Morgan gives up the grand slam, we’re writing about bad lefty splits and bemoaning a June that ends in a team being .500 … or worse.

So it was one pitch. One big pitch, considering the result, but one pitch nonetheless. Maybe today the Phillies rebound and it helps take the sting off Wednesday, or maybe they lose and we’re ready to turn in our fan cards for the year.

Hopefully we keep in perspective that one pitch can change a lot. But it doesn’t have to.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Vernon Dozier

    June 7, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Tough way to lose a game…at least they’ve scored a few runs in Chicago. I’m still not understanding hitting Kingery third. They may believe that he’ll be a good hitter someday – but someday is definitely not today.

    #BeBold #ElTorito

  2. Vernon Dozier

    June 7, 2018 at 10:53 am

    In fairness to Morgan, that was the first extra base hit he’s allowed to a lefthanded batter this season. Also, lefties batted .193/.245/.352 against him last season. I’m much more concerned about the offense, which is plummeting towards the bottom five in baseball. Overall, the pitching has been much better than I ever expected.

    #BeBold #ElTorito

    • Rich

      June 7, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Adam Morgan is a loss waiting to happen. He does his best pitching when he’s brought into a game where the Phils are already 4 runs down.
      I’d rather see anyone but Morgan come into the game because when I see him I know its a lost cause

  3. Keg

    June 7, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Unfortunately, fair or not, Morgan always seems to give up the big homerun. He works well in the middle of the game. Keep him there. That’s why the game has closers; some pitchers are made for it.
    Second point. Dominguez should’ve never been in there to hit. It should’ve been another pitcher in there bunting. Managing 101. Easy decision. Bad one by Kapler.
    Let’s win today. Go Phillies!

  4. Jeffrey Orbach

    June 7, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    After watching todays game ,it’s becoming more obvious to me that we have to get rid of Andrew Knapp. He’s been horrible and it seems like the Phillies lose every time he catches.

    Bring in some one from the minors or a veteran catcher that wasn’t signed in the off-season. Almost anyone will do. Knapp`so gotta go.

    • Vernon Dozier

      June 7, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      He’s definitely been terrible…offensively and defensively. I’m not sure exactly what he brings to the table.

      #BeBold #ElTorito

  5. Vernon Dozier

    June 8, 2018 at 7:03 am

    You can live with going 3-4 against the Dodgers and Cubs on the road, but going 1-5 against the Blue Jays and Giants is what’s really concerning. The Blue Jays have been 10-23 since May 1, yet took two of three in the home series preceeding the Phillies’ road trip. Definitely a red flag there, but the real embarrassment was getting swept in San Francisco and getting shut down by three mediocre starters. As our old friend Pete Mackanin would say, this lineup could sure use a “professional hitter” or two (or three).

    #BeBold #ElTorito

    • denzen

      June 8, 2018 at 11:47 am

      When I think “professional hitter”, Howie Kendrick comes to mind. Don’t know what Mackenzie Mills might become, but Hendrick would look good in this lineup. Shame he is out for the year in Washington. Is anyone concerned about Cesar Hernandez.? He seems to be uppercutting everything.

      • Vernon Dozier

        June 8, 2018 at 12:04 pm

        Yeah, I can’t remember seeing Hernandez in a slump like this before…he’s been rock solid the past few years. I think Santana was their attempt at bringing in a “professional hitter”. I’d say the results have been mixed at best.

        #BeBold #ElTorito

  6. Wayne Rathgeber

    June 8, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    He was throwing 97 mph. He just threw it right down the middle. My question is, why didn’t he throw his curveball to Heyward in that spot? 2-2 count and if he misses he still has a 3-2 count and has just changed the speed and eye level of the batter the pitch before. Even if he walks him the Phils are still up by one run.

  7. Vernon Dozier

    June 8, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    This Kingery in the three hole experiment just defies logic. What possible explanation can there be for batting a guy with a .260 OBP and .576 OPS there?

    Heading into tonight’s game, the Phillies were 2-18 when they give up more than four runs in a game. Vinny got them to that neighborhood in a hurry tonight.

    #BeBold #ElTorito

  8. Vernon Dozier

    June 9, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    This is hard to watch. I’m now wondering whether or not Gabe makes it through the season.

    #BeBold #ElTorito

    • Jeff Orbach

      June 9, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      I personally think Gabe is going to be fired or promoted up and the Phils will hire Buck Showalter next year.

  9. Ken Bland

    June 9, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    As I remember it, the peak period of fan complaining about an inability to hit in RISP situations was a year or two after Jayson Werth had broken through and established himself. Either 2009 or ’10, and his numbers in those situations were truly brutal through much, if not all of the year.

    Well, not to discredit that stat, but it has taken a serious hit in the first 2 games of this series. Friday, Da Crew scores 12 off 7-10 hitting in RISP situations. Saturday, another 12 off 3-16 hitting with RISP.

  10. Vernon Dozier

    June 10, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    When they’ve allowed three runs or less: 28-6
    When they’ve allowed more than three runs: 5-24

    #BeBold #ElTorito

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