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Rare competence: Braves 2, Phillies 1

The Phillies saw something so rare, it should be awed at and documented; a good start from a starting pitcher.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It is not something the Phillies are used to seeing.

When starter Adam Morgan left his second start of the season after seven innings Friday night in Atlanta, he did so having turned in what can only be described as a "competent" start.

Did you know that pitchers other than Cole Hamels were allowed to have these so-called "competent" starts? Were you aware of this?

Competence among Phils starters other than Hamels over the last month or so have been in short supply, but Morgan certainly provided that against the Braves, giving up just two earned runs (both solo homers) on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts on 98 pitches. Of course, like Hamels, he received no run support from a toothless offense, as the Phillies fell to the Braves 2-1.

The loss dropped the Phils to 27-55 on the season, with a run differential of -133. They are now 9-30 on the road and have lost five in a row overall. And they are on pace for a 109-loss season.

You know, if they really put their backs into it, they could lose 120 this year. Let's not rule this out, guys.

But back to Morgan, whose effort was more than encouraging against an admittedly not-so-hot Braves lineup. The fact that he pitched seven innings was newsworthy in and of itself, as no Phils starter had lasted more than six innings in 13 of the team's last 16 starts.

Morgan was great, giving up just a pair of solo home runs to Johnny Gomes and Juan Uribe, a far cry from the guy who posted a 4.74 ERA in 13 Triple-A starts in Lehigh Valley this year. In 68 1/3 innings for the Iron Pigs, Morgan had struck out a mere 33 batters while walking 27, while giving up almost 11 hits per nine innings.

So it's fair to be skeptical about Morgan's long-term effectiveness after just two starts in which his ERA sits at 2.13 but his FIP is 5.37 and his xFIP is 4.17. The images of Mike Mimbs and Pat Combs are still to fresh in my mind, but if nothing else, the 25-year-old has earned the right to stay in the rotation when Jerome Williams or Aaron Harang come off the disabled list.

Offensively the Phils were stymied by Atlanta's excellent starter Julio Teheran, who also pitched seven innings and gave up just one run on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts, with the lone run scoring on a Cesar Hernandez RBI single.

But after giving up 22 earned runs in 22 innings in their four game sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers this week, it was nice to see a pitcher not get his doors blown off in the first inning, putting his team in a big hole early.

Folks, this is what competence looks like. And amazingly, there are teams in this league that don't have to wait a fortnight to see it.