Hey — don’t blame this one on Eli Morgan. Cleveland’s current ace pitched a stellar five innings of baseball tonight before the Third Time Through the Order monster ate him alive.
The Cubs’ only baserunner through those five innings wasn’t there long. Kris Bryant’s fourth-inning home run was Morgan’s only blemish until the sixth as he worked his four-seam, slider, changeup combination to perfection. The changeup in particular — the pitch that will make or break Morgan as a major-league pitcher — was either swung and missed on or called a strike 50% of the time in his full five innings (plus several batters) of work. He threw it 16 times, Cubs batters swung and missed seven times and he threw a get-me-over pitch in a 2-0 count on Sergio Alcantara in the sixth.
He also did this to Joc Pederson:
Eli Morgan, Beautiful 76mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/dmqQe5hTYB— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 23, 2021
Unfortunately, it was a few pitches later in that Alcantara at-bat where things went off the rails for Eli. Alcantara hit a fly ball that Eddie Rosario probably should have caught but misread horribly and led off the inning with a double. The next five batters reached base, including two doubles and a walk. Nick Sandlin allowed the last three to reach before striking out a pair and being pulled in favor of Blake Parker to finish off the inning. The final damage in the sixth inning was four runs and a deflated Cleveland team.
Morgan seemingly lost command in the second at-bat of the sixth. He missed twice with his changeup following the Alcantara at-bat and abandoned altogether when facing Joc Pederson, who only need one meatball slider to hit a home run off of, and Kris Bryant, who saw only sinkers and sliders.
Cleveland got a bit of a rally going in the top of the eighth with a lead-off single from Bradley Zimmer followed by an Ernie Clement to pinch-hit base hit and Cesar Hernandez walk to set up a bases-loaded situation for Amed Rosario. He reached on a fielder’s choice and plated a run, but José Ramírez struck out swinging and Eddie Rosario hit a harmless fly ball to end it. Chicago effectively wiped it out in the next inning, anyway, with back-to-back home runs off of Trevor Stephan to give them the final 7-1 score on the evening.
If you are looking for silver linings here, you really don’t have to look much further than Eli Morgan. After a terrible start to his MLB career in terrible weather, he has bounced back and now has a career-high nine-strikeout performance under his belt. In the future, when Cleveland has a functioning rotation, maybe he survives as a back-end guy who you know can’t face a lineup three times over, but can give you a solid four or five innings every game. He works fast and has one incredibly electric pitch. There’s value in that, they just need him to be much more right now and he might not be there yet.
It’s also nice seeing Ryan Lavarnway hitting his first double of the year and Ernie Clement coming off the bench to continue to do work at the plate.
Luckily the White Sox refuse to pull away from Cleveland, so tonight’s outcome in the divisional race is a wash. The Fightin’ La Russas lost to the Pirates earlier in the night and Cleveland’s deficit in the AL Central still stands at two. They’ll take a day off tomorrow — their last before the All-Star break — before a pivotal series against the Twins over the weekend.