Phillies TV play-by-play broadcaster Tom McCarthy has a way of twisting just about every piece of information into the floweriest version of itself. McCarthy will never be in trouble with the team for being too harsh, too profane, or too silent on the air, so if he is telling you to "pitch better," things have gotten pretty dire.
And, reading off Adam Morgan's numbers last night as Morgan trotted onto the field, you could hear it in McCarthy's voice - there's just not a whole lot even a professional turd-polisher can do with "0-7 in his last 12 big league starts; his ERA's 6.62." McCarthy's voice bent in some odd directions as he gave it a go: "Nobody's gotta tell him that, but he's gotta pitch better."
As vague and citing pitching wins as McCarthy was, he was right. Morgan was going to have do no better than pitch the game of his life in order to turn any heads at this point.
On July 7, with the team sour over the loss of Aaron Nola, Morgan was set to make a start against the Rockies in Colorado. The opportunity would be his last. Following an 11-2 loss, in which Morgan allowed six earned runs and three homers, the 26-year-old lefty was told to pack a bag and found a bus to Lehigh idling outside.
His lack of success had been astounding. Not because he had been considered with particularly sweaty anticipation, but because even bad pitchers have good days. Morgan's best day on the mound had been May 10, when he was able to hang in there for seven innings against the league's worst roster in Atlanta, a feat he was unable to replicate for the rest of the season, even when he faced the Braves again. He had losses in which he gave up three home runs. He had losses in which he gave up double digit hits. He had losses in which he couldn't get out of the first inning, though to be fair that was only one time. One thing he didn't do was melt down and walk everybody, which was nice. Rallies against Morgan typically tended to be pretty aggressive affairs. For the other team, I mean.
It was clear at times that Morgan's promotion had been due to a season-ending injury to Charlie Morton. He simply couldn't get outs. He may have been able to get away with an inning or two of quiet, but in what turned into an inevitability, he couldn't get out of the way of the opposing team. Eventually, hits would stack up and runs would cross the plate ad nauseum. In the month of May--the month in which he pitched his best game--he had a 6.93 ERA. Maybe he just needed to settle in, find his rhythm? His ERA in June improved to 6.28.
So, on July 8, the wheels came off.
Morgan had just been optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but he also had a long talk with Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure about everything that has gone wrong this season and everything that needs to go right to have another opportunity to pitch with the Phillies. Morgan allowed nine hits, six runs and three home runs in five innings and fell to 1-7 with a 6.65 ERA.
You felt bad for the guy, but in a restructuring, it was good to see the Phillies ready to move on. Morgan went to the minors and the team continued its schedule of eye-rolling losses and irrelevant wins. Up at Lehigh, all Morgan did was average between six and seven innings in seven starts, amass a 3.04 ERA, log 52 SO and only 10 BB, and win a little thing called "International League Pitcher of the Week."
When the Phillies called him back up - again because of an injury, this time to Zach Eflin - he was still riding that high, probably feeling like this time he would do it all right and nothing could touch him now.
Scorned and forgotten by the baseball gods, Morgan was left crouching on a pitchers mound in his return to the Phillies on August 14, wondering whom he'd pissed off and how long they'd be mad at him.
The Phillies pulled off a 7-6 win that day, but Morgan had departed after only three innings. Five days later, there came his Friday night start against the Cardinals, with the world full of callous, snickering doubt.
Morgan proved idiots like this one have no real idea what they're talking about with a six-inning, one-run start for the ages (in the context of the rest of his season). He held down a team that's probably in line to take a National League wild card spot, in the first game of a series that they probably weren't taking too seriously.
On a night when Morgan's stuff was working - he pelted the Cardinals with change-ups, survived a twenty-pitch first inning, escaped the bases loaded in the fifth, and gave up a run only on a Randal Grichuk solo shot - closer Jeanmar Gomez's stuff was, of course, not working. The 3-1 lead the Phillies had accrued was blown late and Morgan's performance became the silver lining to an ugly 4-3 loss.
The Phillies rotation is shredded, so the team will probably have a need for Morgan through the rest of the season. Should he continue pitching as he did on Friday, that need will only intensify. If not, then he made T-Mac's job easier for at least one night.