Morgan still learning art of finishing off hitters

Lefty effective through 5 before allowing 4 runs in 6th vs. Nats

Morgan still learning art of finishing off hitters

PHILADELPHIA -- Adam Morgan was good in Wednesday night's 7-2 Phillies loss to the Nationals. Until he wasn't.

It's like manager Pete Mackanin's favorite turn of phrase, a broken record. He's used it to describe the Phils' lackluster offense and outstanding bullpen throughout the season. Both have been about as reliable as Morgan looking strong before losing his touch.

On Wednesday, Morgan needed only 65 pitches to make it through five innings. He allowed two runs and scattered a few hits, but he was in line for his third quality start had he made it through the sixth unscathed. He did not. The Nationals homered twice and tagged him for four runs in the inning. Morgan left after six, surrendering six runs on nine hits.

"He looks like he's on the verge," Mackanin said. "But he just can't finish the hitters off."

Morgan has a 1.71 ERA in the first three innings of his starts this season. But that number balloons to 15.81 in innings three through six.

Entering Wednesday's game, opponents had been 9-for-23 in their third plate appearance in a game against Morgan. The Nationals went 4-for-9 and scored four of their runs their third time through the order.

"He's got stuff. There's a lot of guys that have stuff," Mackanin said. "But in order to be successful, you can't make mistakes. You have to keep the ball down in the zone and hit the corners.

"That's how you become a good Major League pitcher. He's got the stuff to do that, the instinct to do it. But this is a result-oriented business, especially here."

The results have not been pretty for the 26-year-old lefty. The six runs on Wednesday raised his season ERA to 7.07. The only quality starts he's recorded have come against a Braves offense that is scoring the fewest runs in baseball. In starts against any other team, Morgan has a 9.93 ERA.

Morgan has pinpointed what's going wrong. He's leaving a couple pitches up every start, and they're coming back to bite him.

"It's keeping the ball down," Morgan said. "It's a simple fix, but it's easier said than done."

Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.