Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News arrow-downArrow Down icon Arrow Up icon

Morgan's rare misstep adds to bullpen woes

@ToddZolecki
May 5, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – The Phillies have a shorthanded bullpen and it showed again in Saturday night’s 10-8 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. Their 'pen allowed a combined seven runs and blew a three-run lead in the eighth inning to erase any positive vibes following Jimmy Rollins’ retirement ceremony.

PHILADELPHIA – The Phillies have a shorthanded bullpen and it showed again in Saturday night’s 10-8 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.

Their 'pen allowed a combined seven runs and blew a three-run lead in the eighth inning to erase any positive vibes following Jimmy Rollins’ retirement ceremony.

“I think our bullpen has performed well throughout the season,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “Tonight was not our bullpen's best performance. I don't need to say that. You guys know that.”

Box score

Cries for free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel echoed throughout the Delaware Valley, but Kimbrel reportedly still wants a multi-year contract and no team in baseball seems willing to take the risk based upon the way he finished last season with Boston. The Phillies’ bullpen entered the game with a 4.03 ERA, which ranked sixth in the National League. Compare that to the Braves (ninth, 4.36 ERA), Mets (13th, 5.26 ERA), Marlins (14th, 5.29 ERA) and Nationals (15th, 5.89 ERA).

The Phillies believe their bullpen will improve if they ever reach full strength. It has pitched the entire season without Tommy Hunter, who has an injured right forearm. It has pitched most of the season without David Robertson, who has an injured right elbow. Vìctor Arano has been one of its best performers since last season, but he has been on the injured list since April 19 because of inflammation in his right elbow.

There are no timetables for their returns.

Their absences and the usage and inconsistencies of relievers like Seranthony Domínguez, who was unavailable Saturday, forced struggling right-hander Juan Nicasio into a tie game in the seventh inning. Jake Arrieta allowed three runs in six innings, but he got lifted for pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez with runners on second and third and one out in a 3-3 game. Hernandez struck out swinging on three pitches.

“The one thing that I maintain is that we're going to be aggressive at every turn,” Kapler said. “We're going to try to win games when we have a chance to win ballgames. In that situation, with a runner on second and third with one out, it was pretty much the only situation we were going to hit for him.”

Nicasio allowed a couple infield hits to start the seventh, then threw the ball away on a sacrifice bunt to allow both runners to score.

Nicasio joined the team from Seattle in the Jean Segura trade. The Phillies considered him an excellent bounce-back candidate. He posted a 6.00 ERA in 46 appearances last season with the Mariners, but they believed his 2.99 FIP indicated better performances in his future. Nicasio has a 4.70 ERA in 11 appearances this season, having allowed 16 hits and seven walks in 15 1/3 innings. He has struck out 12.

“Ultimately, you have to trust your pitchers and not just the same pitchers you use to win a game every night,” Kapler said. “You've got to trust your entire bullpen and we trusted Nicasio there.”

The Phillies scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh to take an 8-5 lead. Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, Sean Rodríguez and Phil Gosselin each doubled in the inning. But then the Phillies allowed four runs in the eighth to give the Nats a 9-8 lead.

Phillies right-hander Pat Neshek allowed a couple of singles to put runners at the corners with two outs. Nats left fielder Andrew Stevenson stood in the on-deck circle. He had one home run in 161 career plate appearances.

Kapler summoned left-hander Adam Morgan in from the bullpen. Morgan had not allowed a run in 16 appearances to start the season, setting a franchise record. The Nationals countered Morgan with pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki, who had hit three homers in 57 plate appearances this season and had been 2-for-5 in his career against Morgan.

“In that situation, you like a fresh Morgan, who's been arguably your best pitcher all year against a pinch-hitter,” Kapler said.

Morgan threw Suzuki back-to-back changeups. Suzuki hit a 1-0 changeup to left field for a three-run homer to tie the game. Morgan then threw Victor Robles a 1-0 fastball that the Nats outfielder hit to right for a solo homer to take a one-run lead.

“It was tough to do that, after a hard-fought battle, to these guys,” Morgan said. “The team came back and I just didn’t perform.”

Edubray Ramos allowed another run in the ninth. He has a 5.63 ERA in 10 appearances.

“We just weren’t able to hang onto it,” Arrieta said. “It was a tough one.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .