Christian Yelich

Phillies open road trip with total team effort in win over Marlins

Phillies open road trip with total team effort in win over Marlins

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — When your organization has the worst record in baseball, you search every game to find something, anything, to build on for next year.

On Thursday night at Marlins Park, there might have been more than just one thing in a harrowing 3-2 win for the Phillies over the Miami Marlins (see observations).

But you would be hard-pressed to find anything more impressive than what left-hander Adam Morgan accomplished in the seventh inning, striking out the side against three impressive hitters.

After allowing a leadoff single to speedy Dee Gordon, Morgan, protecting a one-run lead, could have crumbled right there.

After all, this is his first year as a major-league reliever.

After all, Morgan had to find some way to get out Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the majors in homers; Christian Yelich, a Silver Slugger winner last year who has 16 homers this season; and Marcell Ozuna, a 2017 All-Star who has 31 homers and 103 RBIs.

As it turned out, Morgan got all of them to swing at air for strike three.

“I just stuck to my strengths,” said Morgan, who is 2-1 with a 4.46 ERA this season. “It feels good, but I have to keep going. I want to finish strong.”

Morgan, a 27-year-old native of Marietta, Georgia, was once one of the Phillies’ top prospects. But shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff caused him to miss the entire 2014 minor-league season.  

He made his major-league debut on June 21, 2015, as a starting pitcher. He had a promising rookie season, going 5-7 with a 4.48 ERA. But last year, he slipped to 2-11 with a 6.04 ERA, opening the door for his conversion to reliever.

Morgan, though, said part of the issue was just getting back to normal after his surgery.

“The more you throw after a surgery,” he said, “the more you use whatever body part was surgically repaired, the more loose it gets and the more it gets back to normal.”

Morgan wasn’t the only hero on Thursday as the Phillies improved to 50-83. Starter Ben Lively (2-5) earned the win by allowing just two runs in six innings. He also delighted in driving in two runs in an all-around performance.

“I feel if I swing hard enough and get a hold of it right, good things will happen,” said Lively, who is hitting .235 with one homer and four RBIs this season.

The Marlins stranded runners on second and third in the second inning and also left the bases loaded in the third, letting Lively off the hook.

The credit for working out of those jams apparently goes to catcher Cameron Rupp.

“I stuck with Rupp — he knows these guys better than I do,” said Lively, who broke a personal five-game losing streak. “I believed in him, and I believed in my pitches.”

This was the Phillies’ first one-run win since Aug. 9, but it almost didn’t happen because of some late-inning issues after Morgan departed.

The Marlins appeared to have tied the game in the eighth on a swinging bunt by Tomas Telis. Reliever Luis Garcia’s throw to first bounced into right field and allowed Derek Dietrich to score. However, Telis ran out of the baseline and was called out.

“You don’t see that very often, but it was the right call,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You’ve got to give the pitcher a place to throw the ball.”

Stanton was held in check all night, going 0 for 5. And he was involved in Miami’s failed ninth-inning rally against Phillies closer Hector Neris, who earned his 17th save the hard way.

Neris hit pinch-hitter Mike Aviles with his first pitch and allowed a single to Gordon. Stanton then hit a deep fly out to center, but Aviles did not tag up. Yelich hit a low liner to left that was grabbed on a diving play by Hyun Soo Kim for the second out.

After a walk to Ozuna loaded the bases, J.T. Realmuto was caught looking at a 2-2 fastball that was either low or right at the knees to end the game.

“Good thing Lively drove in two runs,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “We won, and we’re happy about that.”

'Tough day for the Phillies' as team swept by Marlins in doubleheader

'Tough day for the Phillies' as team swept by Marlins in doubleheader

GAME 1 BOX SCORE | GAME 2 BOX SCORE

Pete Mackanin opened his postgame news conference thusly on Tuesday night:

"Tough day for the Phillies," he said.

Tough day.

Tough night, too.

Heck, it's been a tough season.

A tough few seasons.

Baseball's worst team took it on the mandible twice Tuesday, losing both ends of a twi-night doubleheader to the Miami Marlins by scores of 12-8 and 7-4.

The Phils hit eight home runs in the twinbill — Tommy Joseph and Andres Blanco each went deep in both games and rookie Rhys Hoskins hit his sixth in 12 games — but the starting pitching did not keep them in either game.

"It's a shame," Mackanin said. "We hit all those home runs.

"We had some opportunities. Didn't capitalize. And the pitching was a problem."

Aaron Nola, pretty much the best starting pitcher in baseball for a 10-game stretch from June 22 to Aug. 12, struggled for the second straight outing in the first game. The right-hander gave up nine hits and seven runs over 6 1/3 innings. Six of the hits were for extra bases, including two home runs in the Marlins' decisive six-run seventh inning (see Instant Replay).

That inning started with the game tied, 3-3. Nola gave up a walk and a single to open the frame. He then surrendered a long, three-run, pinch-hit homer to Ichiro Suzuki as the Marlins broke the tie. Giancarlo Stanton hit his majors-high 46th homer two batters later, also off Nola. Marcell Ozuna added a two-run homer in the inning against Jesen Therrien.

Suzuki has two pinch-hit homers in his career, both against the Phillies. He crushed a fat, 3-1 sinker from Nola. The ball traveled 432 feet to center.

"I made some mistakes with guys on base and that hurt," Nola said. "Leadoff walks, getting behind in counts, getting balls up. That hurt me."

While the first game got away from the Phillies late, the nightcap got away from them early. Rookie Nick Pivetta needed 46 pitches to complete the first inning and was tagged for six runs in the first two innings. Five of those runs came on a pair of homers from Ozuna and Christian Yelich (see Instant Replay).

Pivetta's ERA swelled to 6.73 ERA. That's the second-highest ERA by a Phillie in his first 19 career starts. Only Hal Elliott, with a 7.45 ERA in his first 19 starts in 1929-30, had a higher mark.

"Pivetta didn’t have it," Mackanin said. "There's not a lot you can say about it.

"The Marlins have two hitters (Stanton and Ozuna) right near 100 RBIs and the rest of their lineup is good. Yelich is a good hitter and Dee Gordon, too. They're tough. If you don't make good pitches, you're going to get burned.

"You get back to Pivetta — young pitchers take their lumps and he took some lumps today. They don’t develop overnight."

Pivetta, 24, had spent the previous five days with Triple A Lehigh Valley. He was added to the roster because teams are allowed to carry 26 players for a doubleheader. He will head back to Lehigh Valley for at least another five days to complete a 10-day assignment.

"I just wasn't locating my pitches today," Pivetta said. "I got behind. They took advantage of it. That’s what happened today. It's difficult. I failed the team today, failed myself. I'll go back to Triple A, work hard and get back up here eventually.

"I'll have to learn from it. There's always stuff to learn with failure. The team stayed in it really well tonight. The bullpen picked me up."

In particular, Edubray Ramos pitched three scoreless innings in the second game and Yacksel Rios, the 13th rookie to debut with the Phillies this season, showed a nice, loose power arm in pitching an inning and two-thirds of scoreless relief.

Rookie Nick Williams had the most eye-popping of the Phillies' eight home runs, a 445-foot blast to dead center in the nightcap. He would have had a second homer if Yelich didn’t commit armed robbery at the center-field wall.

The combined duration of the two games was six hours, 28 minutes and the Phillies saw their majors-worst record sink to 45-79. Attendance was generously announced at 20,761. There were Eagles chants late in the second game and even a "Trust the Process" chant. The second game ended in surreal fashion, with rain building to a downpour, lightning dotting the sky and the Marlins running off the field after out-hitting the Phillies, 27-16, and taking two wins. They have won nine of their last 11 to even their record at 62-62.

Matt Klentak plays coy about Phillies' interest in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich

Matt Klentak plays coy about Phillies' interest in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, speaking before Saturday’s game against Milwaukee, chose his words carefully when asked about speculation that the Phils are interested in trading for Miami outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich.

“We have talked to each of the other 29 teams at least once sometime in the last three weeks, Miami being one of them,” he said. “But I hope in my career that you will never get me to comment on a specific player.”

He added that the Phillies, while expected to be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline, are “open-minded to the idea of adding, particularly controllable players (that) make sense for us.”

Someone then asked, at least partially tongue in cheek, if they would be OK inheriting a 10-year contract, a reference to the amount of time left after this season on the 13-year, $325 million contract Stanton signed before the 2015 season.

“Depends on the player,” Klentak said. “Never say never.”

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo speculated on June 17 the Phillies have the money and prospects to deal for Stanton and Yelich, and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported Thursday the Phillies, Giants and Cardinals “are among teams showing strong interest in multiple Miami Marlins outfielders.”

Marcell Ozuna is the other Miami outfielder attracting attention.

Heyman added, however, that there is “almost no chance” Stanton will be dealt before July 31, citing the stumbling blocks as his no-trade clause and the pending sale of the Marlins — i.e., that a new owner might want to have a megastar like Stanton on hand to build around.

As for the Phillies, Klentak said, “We are open, and we have had conversations with certain teams about players where we would, if you’re looking at it in a binary way, be acting as the buyer. But … you understand that it doesn’t make sense for us to do that for a short-term asset.”

But there would be interest, he added, if it’s “a player that we believe would be with us for a long enough period of time to impact the long-term fate of this franchise.”

In general, Klentak said that “the dialogue has been pretty consistent” with other teams, and that while other clubs have consummated a handful of deals already, the activity should pick up as the deadline nears.

The Phillies did not make a deal before the July 31 deadline in 2016 but shipped Carlos Ruiz to the Dodgers before the waiver deadline at the end of August. This year, they have a handful of veterans on expiring contracts – starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, relievers Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit, utilityman Howie Kendrick and outfielder Daniel Nava — who might be appealing to a contender.

“Whether it’s now, whether it’s August, whether it’s the winter meetings, whether it’s spring training, no matter what, it’s generally still the same calculus: Does this potential transaction make sense for this franchise at this time?” Klentak said when asked about the likelihood of an August deal. “And there are a variety of factors that play into that. Whether a player is likely to get through trade waivers in August is a factor.”

He also stopped short of saying that any of the team’s minor league prospects — prospects who would presumably be involved in a potential deal with Miami — is untouchable.

“For any general manager to say they wouldn’t do anything, just doesn't make sense,” he said. “You really and truthfully don’t know what opportunity will present itself later down the road. There’s definitely players in our system that we’re more protective of than others.”