Search for consistency a focal point for Morgan

Search for consistency a focal point for Morgan

CHICAGO -- Left-hander Adam Morgan made his first career start at Wrigley Field on Friday, facing a Cubs lineup with the third-most runs scored in baseball.

The Cubs welcomed Morgan accordingly, homering off him three times in a 6-2 Chicago victory as Morgan continued his up-and-down season.

"He's one good start, one bad start," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "One good start, one bad start … At this level, you have to be more consistent to be successful, and he's capable of doing it. He just has to do it."

Morgan gave up six earned runs on eight hits and a walk in four-plus innings. He moved to 1-3 in six starts with a 6.67 ERA. His fastball velocity was down from his previous 92-mph average this season, instead hanging around 89-91, and he didn't command his usually good changeup.

The result was the three homers, one more than Morgan had allowed in 25 2/3 innings entering play.

In the fourth inning, Morgan hung a 1-2 slider to Jorge Soler. The Cubs outfielder banged it off the left-field scoreboard for a solo homer.

Also in the fourth, after Morgan walked Addison Russell and gave up a Javier Baez single, he left a 1-0 changeup over the plate to David Ross, who turned it into a three-run shot and his 100th career homer.

"You can overcome a solo home run, but that home run to Ross, that was the one that got us out of the game," Mackanin said.

For good measure, Kris Bryant added a home run in the fifth. Morgan tried to challenge Bryant in on a 1-2 count, but Bryant turned on the 91 mph four-seamer.

"It wasn't in enough," Morgan said.

That was the outing for Morgan, who has yet to find his footing in the Major Leagues. He started 15 games last season, going 5-7 with a 4.48 ERA. This year, he has looked good at times, throwing five innings of three-run ball in his season debut against the Indians.

He has also pitched well twice against the lowly Braves, earning the win May 10 when he went seven innings and surrendered one run.

But after Friday, he has also failed to reach the fifth inning in three starts.

"Yeah, [it's tough]," Morgan said. "Absolutely. You try to be consistent every time out, give your team a chance to win. When you put them in a hole like that, it's hard."

Mackanin didn't directly answer whether this could mean Morgan's rotation spot is in jeopardy, but the message was clear nonetheless. Morgan must find more consistency, or the Phillies will find someone else who can.

"Nobody's solid in their spots," Mackanin said. "Last year I always had to talk about how you audition every day. Every time you go out there, you got to keep doing it. At this level, consistency is the hallmark of a good Major League player."

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago who covered the Phillies on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.