Phillies-Twins 5 things: Now or never for Adam Morgan?


Phillies (30-42) at Twins (22-48)
8:10 p.m. on CSN

They might still be scoring runs in Minnesota if not for the whole nine innings thing.

Instead of the Phillies' 10-run outburst being the story of their series opener at Target Field, it was the 14-spot the Twins put up. It was wholly unexpected for the Twins to chase Aaron Nola after four-run innings in the first and the third, but things just seem to be snowballing for the Phils.

Can they put an end to the losing Wednesday?

1. Make it stop
The Phillies have lost eight straight games and 12 of 13. They've been outscored in that stretch 97-33, an average score of 7.5 to 2.5.

In eight of those 13 losses the Phillies have scored two runs or fewer. In two of them they've scored six-plus runs, including last night. They just can't get the hitting, pitching and defense on the same page in the same game the way they did on an almost nightly basis earlier in the season en route to so many one-run victories.

Making things more frustrating and puzzling last night was the Twins' prior ineffectiveness at home. Offensively, Minnesota was having the same troubles at its home field as the Phillies have had at Citizens Bank Park.

Before last night, the Twins were hitting .252 at home. They're now hitting .256. You don't often see four-point jumps in a sample of nearly 1,300 at-bats.

Their 14 runs were double their previous season-high at home.

Perhaps tonight the Phillies will make Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki look more like Kurt Suzuki and less like the greatest hitter who ever lived.

2. Morgan-mania
Let's hope Phillies fans can contain their excitement tonight with Adam Morgan on the mound. Morgan, 1-6 with a 6.49 ERA, needs to go deep tonight to save the Phillies' bullpen. David Hernandez, Severino Gonzalez and Brett Oberholtzer are all likely unavailable after combining for 114 pitches over five innings last night.

Pete Mackanin likes Morgan. The Phillies like Morgan. They like his makeup, his approach, etc. They don't like how many spots he's missed this season. A sinkerballer who throws in the upper-80s can't afford to miss over the middle or high in the zone and that's what Morgan has done. He's given up 12 home runs in just 52⅔ innings, including 10 homers in his last 27 innings. There are 42 qualifying starting pitchers in the majors who have allowed fewer than 10 home runs all season.

Of the 12 HR, 10 have been hit by righties, but that doesn't mean Morgan has kept left-handed hitters off base. Lefties have actually been better, hitting .326/.392/.522. Overall, Morgan's opponents have hit .307 with a .905 OPS. That's the third-highest OPS against in the National League among pitchers with at least 50 innings, ahead of only Cincinnati's Alfredo Simon and Milwaukee's Wily Peralta.

If Morgan isn't keeping the Phillies in the game at least one out of every two starts, he has no place in the rotation. At least last season Morgan allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of 15 starts and completed six innings nine times.

He knows his spot on the Phillies' staff is on shaky ground and hopefully he responds tonight. Morgan did pitch well against the Cubs and Nationals in consecutive starts before being blasted by the Diamondbacks last Friday.

3. Velasquez in Reading
About 1,300 miles away from Target Field, Vince Velasquez will make a rehab start for the Reading Fightin Phils Wednesday night. It's his first and, according to the pitcher himself, maybe his only rehab start before rejoining the team. (It's not his decision; he'll be reevaluated by the team after the start.)

It's an important night for the 24-year-old right-hander. Velasquez threw two pitches at 87 mph before exiting his last start with a right biceps strain. It was a clear sign that something was wrong for a pitcher whose fastball has averaged 94 mph this season.

Velasquez will be a on pitch count of about 75 tonight. If he's throwing in the 93-94 mph range, the Phillies may be confident enough in his arm to bring him back to the major-league staff, which makes Morgan's start tonight even more important. If Morgan struggles again tonight and Velasquez shows he's healthy, it could be Morgan and not Zach Eflin who gets sent back down to create room for Velasquez.

For Velasquez, this break was just as important mentally as it was physically. Through his first eight starts, Velasquez had a 2.42 ERA, a .197 opponents' batting average and had allowed three home runs in 48⅓ innings. In his last four starts before going on the DL, his ERA was 8.10, his opponents hit .379 and he allowed five home runs in just 13⅓ innings.

4. Another mediocre righty opponent
The Phillies had no trouble last night with Tyler Duffey, and on Wednesday they draw another struggling right-hander in Kyle Gibson (0-5, 6.06 ERA in six starts).

Gibson, 28, has made 79 starts for the Twins since 2013, going 26-32 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. Pretty much the standard numbers for a No. 5 starter.

The 6-foot-6 Gibson throws mostly sinkers, sliders and changeups, topping out around 92 mph. His opponents have hit .327 against the sinker, which he's thrown 40 percent of the time in 2016.

Gibson likes to pump sinkers and changeups to lefties but those pitches haven't worked — they're hitting .333 with a .941 OPS against him compared to righties' .257 batting average and .702 OPS.

Gibson is coming off his only quality start of the year, having allowed three runs in 6⅓ innings to the Yankees at home last Thursday.

5. This and that
• That back-end of the bullpen that was so consistent for the Phillies from mid-April through the end of May has been terrible lately. Hector Neris has had a couple scoreless outings after seeing his ERA rise above 3.00, but David Hernandez's struggles have continued. He allowed three insurance runs last night, and in his last 3⅓ innings he's given up eight runs on 10 hits, two walks and two homers. His ERA is up to 4.28.

• Maikel Franco's line-drive homer last night was his 12th of the year. He's on pace for 27 home runs and 83 RBIs despite slumping for much of the season.

• With eight home runs, Tommy Joseph has more than Adrian Gonzalez, Starling Marte, Prince Fielder, Hanley Ramirez, Brandon Phillips, Hunter Pence, Dustin Pedroia, David Wright, Matt Wieters, Anthony Rendon, Dexter Fowler, Joe Mauer, Mark Reynolds and Melky Cabrera, among many others. Joseph's hit those eight homers in just 110 plate appearances.

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