MLB's K leaders, Phils bolstered by Morgan

Philadelphia strikes out 18 vs. Indians, most since May 2014

MLB's K leaders, Phils bolstered by Morgan

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said before Friday's game that Adam Morgan was not guaranteed a spot in the starting rotation moving forward. For the first 14 outs of his start, Morgan looked like a pitcher deserving of it in the Phillies' 4-3, 11-inning win.

Morgan, a 26-year-old lefty, cruised through the first 4 2/3 innings of his first Major League start of the season, even retiring nine consecutive batters before Indians pitcher Corey Kluber stepped in to the batter's box with two outs in the fifth. What looked to likely be an innocent end to the inning turned into trouble.

Kluber -- in just his 15th Major League at-bat -- hit a double down the left-field line and scored the game's first run when leadoff man Rajai Davis singled him home. Jason Kipnis followed that up with a home run, hitting a 1-2 slider from Morgan over the right-field fence to give Cleveland a 3-0 lead.

Kipnis' two-run shot

Morgan's night ended on a sour note, but the pitcher was picked up. First by the Phillies offense, then by their bullpen.

Philadelphia got Morgan off the hook with three runs in the bottom of the fifth and then a group of four relievers put together six scoreless innings, setting up Ryan Howard's walk-off home run in the 11th.

"The energy is high and everyone is picking each other up, the way the bullpen did for me and those guys came out in the fifth inning and scored runs," said Morgan, who made 15 starts for the Phillies last season.

Howard's walk-off home run

Morgan was called up to replace Charlie Morton, the veteran sinkerballer who was recently lost for the season with a left hamstring injury. It looked like the southpaw did enough to earn himself another shot in the Phillies rotation, striking out a career-best seven batters over five innings.

"I realized the mistakes that I made, and I can go forward from there," he said.

Meanwhile, the Phillies' bullpen turned in another solid performance. Andrew Bailey, Elvis Araujo, Hector Neris and David Hernandez allowed just one hit and struck out 11 in six innings. Bailey and Hernandez each had four punchouts, while Neris had the other three.

Phillies pitchers lead the Majors with 240 strikeouts on the season.

The 18 strikeouts by the Phillies were the most they've had as a team since May 30, 2014, against the Mets, a game that went 14 innings. Morgan also helped the Phillies pitching staff run its scoreless streak to 26 innings, the franchise's longest since Sept. 13-16, 2009.

While the streak was snapped in the fifth, the bullpen got another one underway in a hurry.

"We were confident that the guys we had were capable pitchers, and we felt they were capable of doing what they're doing," Mackanin said. "To see them doing what we thought they were capable of doing is a good feeling. We have guys in the Minors that we're excited about, also, but these guys out here, are we leading the league in strikeouts? It's outstanding."

Stephen Pianovich is a contributor for based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.