After several years of dealing with a barren farm system, the Phillies have slowly been able to restock the lower ranks with some talent with plenty of upside. Pitchers Adam Morgan and Shane Watson are among those giving Phillies fans something to look forward to as the duo ranked sixth- and eighth-best in the organization, respectively, according to MLB.com.
But the Phillies got a double-dose of bad news yesterday, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reported:
[Morgan] suffered a left shoulder injury [in May], which ultimately required surgery this month. Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper said Morgan might not be back until August, at the earliest. Fellow prospect Shane Watson is scheduled to have right shoulder surgery shortly. He also is expected to be out until August.
Morgan was selected by the Phillies in the third round of the 2011 draft. He has been solid in three seasons in the organization, but suffered a shoulder injury in mid-May last season, sidelining him for two months. Doctors prescribed rest rather than undergoing surgery immediately. The Phillies put him on a pitch count. While the results were decent following his return (2.67 ERA in eight Triple-A starts), his strikeout and walk rates were worse (20-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30 1/3 innings) and he was giving up hits at a much higher rate as well (.347 BABIP). Morgan will turn 24 years old at the end of February.
Watson, a 20-year-old taken in the first round of the 2012 draft, made just 16 starts in what would have been his first full season in professional baseball. With Single-A Lakewood, Watson posted a 4.75 ERA in 72 innings. Following a start on July 4, Watson was given time off due to shoulder fatigue, but was eventually shut down for the season in August. Like Morgan, doctors prescribed rest rather than a surgical procedure. In both cases, the rest seemed to only delay the inevitable.
The Athletics are tied for first place in the AL West for the first time since Opening Day. They took the first of a three-game series against the Astros on Friday with a wild (and controversial) overturned replay call in the ninth and Matt Olson‘s decisive walk-off home run in the 10th — the first of his career to date — then returned on Saturday and bested the Astros 7-1 to take first place.
Saturday’s win was less of a nail-biter than Friday’s had been, but its rewards were just as sweet. Trevor Cahill led the A’s through the first seven innings of one-hit, seven-strikeout ball, backed by seven runs on five RBI doubles from Khris Davis, Matt Olson, Stephen Piscotty and Josh Phegley. All told, the four players struck eight doubles to tie the franchise single-game record.
The Astros, meanwhile, were stymied by both Cahill and the A’s bullpen through the first eight innings of the game. Following Cahill’s seven shutout innings, Jeurys Familia took the ball in the eighth and blanked the Astros to preserve the seven-run lead. Yusmeiro Petit wasn’t quite so lucky: with one out in the top of the ninth, he pitched to a full count against Tony Kemp, then saw his 90.1-MPH fastball returned to right field for a home run. That was the first and last time the Astros crossed home plate, however, as Kyle Tucker popped out to third base and Alex Bregman cemented the loss with a fly ball to right.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Astros had not been out of first place since June 13, when they played second fiddle to the now third-place Mariners. They’ll share first-place honors with the Athletics until Sunday’s finale; it’ll take a series sweep for Oakland to take the lead in the division, but they’ve already delivered incredible results over the last two weeks (and it’s worth noting, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart pointed out, that Houston has now lost seven of their last eight games). The A’s climbed out of the no. 3 spot at the start of August and have steadily progressed toward first place ever since, driven by two separate four-win streaks and their two decisive wins this weekend. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle also notes that the club has not been in first place in a non-April month since August 25, 2014 — the last year they qualified for the playoffs.