Mackanin pointed to Morgan's 1-7 record and 6.62 ERA entering Friday night's 4-3 loss in 11 innings to the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. Morgan lost a Spring Training competition to be the team's fifth starter, but when he was promoted in April to replace Charlie Morton, who suffered a season-ending groin injury, he struggled. He recently rejoined the rotation to replace Zach Eflin, who had season-ending knee surgery Friday.
"He has to start doing something," Mackanin said. "One and seven with a six ERA is not good. I think he's better than that, but he has to start showing it. It's cut and dried."
Morgan delivered against the Cardinals and stood in line for the win until Jeanmar Gomez blew his fourth save of the season in the ninth. Morgan allowed five hits, one run, two walks and struck out three in six-plus innings.
"I was thrilled about the way Morgan pitched," Mackanin said afterward. "He looked almost masterful with his changeup, keeping them off balance."
It was the first time since May 21 that Morgan allowed two or fewer runs in six or more innings, when he allowed two runs in six innings against the Braves. He went 0-5 with a 7.65 ERA in eight starts in between.
"I don't really want to look at it that way," Morgan said, asked if he considers these final few weeks make-or-break for him. "I just want to take advantage of the opportunity. I feel like once you start looking back, like, 'Oh, gosh, I've really got to do good here to stay in the big leagues,' I feel like the mind wanders. It's pretty simple. I'm trying to take advantage of the opportunity and give the team a chance to win every time I go out."