MINNEAPOLIS – The weak-hitting Phillies have come upon some offense the last couple of nights in Minnesota. That will happen when you face two pitchers (Tyler Duffey and Kyle Gibson) who have ERAs that start with the number six.
But despite smacking 23 hits and scoring 15 runs, the Phillies have lost both games to the Twins to run their ugly losing streak to nine games. A loss in the series finale Thursday afternoon would push the losing skid to 10 games, the longest since 1999.
The Phillies ran their larger streak of futility to 26 losses in 32 games in a 6-5 loss to the Twins on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay).
Starting pitcher Adam Morgan couldn’t protect a three-run lead in the fifth inning and reliever David Hernandez gave up his ninth run in his last four appearances in the seventh inning to take the loss.
The Phils hit two home runs in the game – that’s six in the last two – and Ryan Howard made the Twins pay for their decision to intentionally walk Maikel Franco with an RBI single in the top of the fifth.
But in the end, pitching was the Phillies’ undoing. They scored three times against Gibson to take a 5-2 lead in the top of the fifth inning and Morgan, with a little help from Peter Bourjos’ shaky defense in right field, gave it all back in the bottom of the inning.
“We’re scoring runs, so that’s a positive,” Morgan said afterward. “I speak for myself when I say that when your team scores runs for you, you need to go back out and put up zeroes.”
Morgan has had a difficult time doing that. His ERA in 11 starts 6.55.
His poor outing Wednesday night – he allowed 11 hits and five runs in five innings – came as Vince Velasquez was firing mid-90s fastballs in a minor-league rehab start at Double A Reading (see story). Velasquez, recovering from a strained biceps, is healthy enough to return to the rotation as soon as Monday when Morgan’s turn comes up again. And it was hardly coincidence that the two pitchers were working on the same night. Management clearly was getting its options aligned.
“Yes,” Mackanin said before the game when the scenario was posed that Morgan might need a good start to preserve his spot in the rotation.
After the game, Mackanin did not mince words when it came to offering a critique on the left-hander’s work.
“It wasn’t a good start,” the manager said. “Eleven hits in five innings. He hasn’t been pitching well. He’s up in the zone.
“It’s nice to get a three-run lead, but then when you give it right back to them that changes the whole momentum of the game. That was tough to take. Our pitching had been our mainstay early in the season and now it’s eluding us. But it is good to see signs of life from the offense. Guys are swinging the bats a little bit better.”
Mackanin was asked if Velasquez would take Morgan’s spot in the rotation.
“I don’t know what the plan is right now, but I’m sure I’ll talk to Matt,” he said of general manager Matt Klentak. “I know Velasquez pitched pretty well today, so we’ll just have to see tomorrow. I don’t have an answer for you on that.
“I’m not happy with his performance and we’ll talk about everything with Matt tonight, and hopefully have something for you tomorrow.”
Mackanin had a number of things to talk about with Klentak in a late-night phone call back to Philadelphia. The bullpen is weary and Andrew Bailey left Wednesday night’s game with hamstring soreness. More will be known on his condition Thursday.
Mackanin’s frustration with the team’s performance has really begun to show in recent days. He tries to keep it in check because he knows the team is in a rebuild that will require patience as talent is added to the minor-league system and that which is already there inches up the ladder.
“I’m walking a tightrope,” Mackanin said. “We can’t become complacent with losing, and on the other hand I don’t want to start yelling and screaming and put my thumb on them. There’s got to be a way to figure out how to get them back on track.
“We’re going to climb out of this, that I’m pretty sure of. But right now is the time I’ve got to figure out a way to keep them motivated without being too harsh.”