Phillies' ninth-inning rally falls short against Cubs

Phillies' ninth inning rally falls short against Cubs

PHILADELPHIA — Phillies manager Pete Mackanin made it clear before Monday's game that starting pitcher Adam Morgan needed to pitch better.

With a number of pitching prospects in the Phillies' organization continuing to post solid showings in the minors, there's pressure on anybody in the major league rotation who is not performing well. And with Morgan entering the first of three games against the Cubs 1-4 with a 7.07 ERA, his spot is certainly in jeopardy.

"He needs to pitch better than he's been pitching," Mackanin said before Morgan's eighth start of the season.

He improved on keeping the ball down and not flying open, two things he's been working on with pitching coach Bob McClure since his last start, and Mackanin thought he fared better, although overall, Morgan still had a shaky outing.

While the numbers suggest Morgan had a decent night, the lefty labored early and was lucky things didn't get out of hand in the first inning but the Phillies, even with a four-run ninth, dropped the series opener to the Cubs 6-4.

After not having a four-run inning all season, the Phillies have had them in back-to-back games but have lost 13 of their last 16.

The biggest problem for Morgan has been going through the opposing lineup for the second and third times. Monday he had the trouble facing the order the first time.

He needed 30 pitches to make it through the first inning and somehow made it out allowing only one to score after facing seven batters.

"Morgan threw a whole lot of pitches in that first inning which gives you an indication he didn't have his good command, good control," Mackanin said.

Dexter Fowler led off the first with a double and scored to make it 1-0 when Kris Bryant hit a ground-rule double that came up just shy of being a homer to right. Morgan gave up back-to-back singles to load the bases but then got Javier Baez and Addison Russell to strike out swinging, limiting the damage.

"You could see the determination in his eyes," Mackanin said. "He really wanted to have a good outing."

Morgan settled in a bit after the two strikeouts, but had trouble again in the fourth.

He fell behind opposing pitcher Jon Lester 3-1 before giving up a one-out double. He struck out the next batter and instead of ending the inning had he retired Lester, he still had to face Jason Heyward. The right fielder may Morgan pay, hitting a line drive, two-run home run to right, putting the Cubs up 3-0.

While Morgan may be fighting to keep his job, he said it's not something he thinks about.

"No, you can't really look into that," Morgan said. "You look into that, you take away from your game plan."

It wasn't until Morgan was out of the game that the Cubs got the runs that eventually proved to be the difference.

Elvis Araujo relieved Morgan and gave up singles to three of the first four hitters he faced, making it 4-0. A suicide squeeze by Matt Szczur scored Bryant for a 5-0 Cubs advantage. Bryant added on one more run, scoring on an Anthony Rizzo single in the ninth off of Brett Oberholtzer.

Despite dealing with runners on base in the first four innings he pitched, it was Morgan's first quality start of the year against a team other than the Braves.

Opposite Morgan was Lester, who quickly cooled a Phillies offense that began to heat up over the weekend against the Brewers.

The left-hander dominated the Phillies' lineup, allowing just four hits through eight innings and not allowing a runner in six of those frames. At one point Lester retired 13 in a row, with Tommy Joseph's leadoff single in the seventh the first hit he allowed since Peter Bourjos' bunt single in the second.

Against Lester, nobody from the Phillies reached third base and just one, Tyler Goeddel in the second, made it past first.

That all changed in the ninth against Chicago relievers. Before recording an out, the Phillies trimmed the Cubs' six-run lead to two.

Andres Blanco and Cesar Hernandez began the frame with singles before Freddy Galvis broke an 0-for-22 slump in a big way. Galvis turned on the first pitch he saw, a fastball, from Justin Grimm for the three-run shot, making it 6-3.

Joseph joined in on the fun, hitting a solo shot, going back-to-back with Galvis.

But as quickly as the Phillies put up four runs, their rally fizzled.

Maikel Franco grounded out, Cameron Rupp struck out looking, and after an Odubel Herrera pinch-hit single, pinch-hitting Ryan Howard grounded out.

smgross@mcall.com

Twitter @SteveGrossMCall

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