The Phillies' early-season success has been a fragile mix of strong starting pitching, good bullpen work, big-play defense and timely hitting. When one of those ingredients is missing, the Phils are in for a day that feels like it jumped right out of 2015.
Sunday was one of those days.
The starting pitching was poor and so was the clutch hitting. The result was a 9-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at blustery Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
"We didn't put anything together today," manager Pete Mackanin said after the interminable three-hour, 52-minute slopfest ended. "It was one of those games we haven't been accustomed to. We've been playing really good baseball and today we didn't."
Adam Morgan failed to build on his previous start – seven innings, one run in Atlanta – and suffered the loss after giving up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings.
Morgan clearly was not sharp. Neither was Cincinnati starter Dan Straily. He threw 109 pitches in five innings and allowed six hits and three walks. He was one pitch away from disaster several times, but the Phillies couldn't get anything going against him. The Phils were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position against him. They finished the day with just three hits in 18 chances with a runner in scoring position and left 16 men on base.
Maikel Franco cashed in a couple times late in the game with a two-run double and an RBI single. But that was about it. Ryan Howard just missed a couple of home runs, one to center and one that he pulled just foul, and David Lough narrowly missed a grand slam in the ninth. Mackanin has said that the Phillies have been both good and lucky during their hot start. Was all this a sign that their luck is turning? There are two more series in this homestand to find out.
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"It was frustrating," Mackanin said. "We just couldn't capitalize with men in scoring position and men on base. It is what it is. We've been playing so well up to this point and today it was just a hiccup."
Sunday's loss was just the Phils' second in the last eight games. They enter Monday night's game against the Marlins at 22-16.
Morgan is not scheduled to pitch again until Saturday against Atlanta. He said the time in between would be tough. It always is for a pitcher who has a tough start.
"You just keep going," he said. "I know I need to be better.
"I was searching for my rhythm and tempo all day. It was just one of those days where the command was not there."
Morgan is not an overpowering guy. He needs to command the strike zone and he did not do that. In one of the key junctures of the game, he walked the opposing pitcher, Straily, on four pitches with the bases loaded. That walk brought home a run and helped set up a three-run home by Eugenio Suarez.
"That's one of the loneliest feelings in the world, walking a pitcher and walking a run in," Morgan said.
Mackanin said he didn't like the way the ball came out of Morgan's hand.
"It was uncharacteristic of Adam Morgan because he normally has outstanding command and he relies on that and when he doesn't have it what happened today is likely to happen," Mackanin said. "He just didn't pitch well. He didn't have one of his good days."
Mackanin went on to talk about the need for more offense from his team. Much of the Phils' success has been built on 14 one-run victories, but overall the club is averaging just 3.32 runs per game, second from the bottom in the majors.
"We're going to rely on pitching and defense, but we've got to get our hitting going," he said.
"We've been fortunate. We've been outstanding in one-run games as everybody knows. That's nice to see. But after a while, it can be a little much. We'd like to have some big leads where I can protect my best relief pitchers and not have to bring them into tie games and have to hope we scratch and claw for a run."