How Connor Brogdon got his groove back for the Phillies

How Connor Brogdon got his groove back for the Phillies

HOUSTON – On Oct. 11, in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 1 of the National League Division Series, Connor Brogdon walked to the mound at Truist Park. Ranger starter Suarez was struggling with his command, so Game 1 was going to be a bullpen game, against a tough Braves lineup.

It didn’t go well. Brogdon was unable to complete the inning. In a high-leverage spot, he allowed a walk to Matt Olson after an eight-pitch at-bat, back-to-back doubles, one of which scored a run and another walk. Brogdon was only able to record one out.

He could tell something wasn’t right. Throughout the second half of the season, he had felt his front end slipping, and it was affecting the way he was locating his pitches. So the day after that start in Atlanta, he approached pitching coach Caleb Cotham with an idea.

READ MORE: Zack Wheeler didn’t have his stuff in Game 2, but the Phillies are still relying on their two aces.

In the minor leagues, Brogdon would think from his chin to his shoulder. To make sure her front was high enough, she would turn her head toward her left arm and make sure her chin was parallel to her shoulder. It was a simple fix, but an effective way to make sure his front end didn’t slide.

Cotham signed it and the change has given immediate results. Brogdon has yet to allow a run or an earned walk in his four postseason outings since that Oct. 11 outing in Atlanta. Also, raising his front end has increased his velocity quite a bit and even made his cutter and changeup sharper.

“There was definitely a time where I was relatively unsure of where the ball was going,” Brogdon said. “I kind of expected the best out there. When, all my life, I’ve known exactly where the ball was going. So once we figured out what was going on, it clicked.

“I feel more power behind the ball now. I’m confident where the ball is going to go. It’s not a fastball, and man, I hope it goes away, that kind of thing.”

Brogdon admitted he may have gotten a little “lazy” in the second half. Because he found success before the All-Star break, posting a 1.93 ERA in 20 starts, he believes he got a little too comfortable and allowed his front end to fall. As a result, his second-half numbers are markedly different: a 4.26 ERA in 27 starts.

“If you were to go back and look at those outings in the second half, I think you’d see a lot of fastballs that were called and were actually leaking inside righties,” Brogdon said. “And all of this is just a product of a weak front.”

However, Cotham believes Brogdon is now pitching as well as he has all year. His stuff is as good as any pitching coach has ever seen. And because of the success of his mechanical changes, the right-hander is showing more confidence on the mound, something he lacked in the second half of this season.

This all comes at the right time for the Phillies. Brogdon will have a “massive role” in the World Series, in Cotham’s words, against a Houston Astros lineup that features some tough lefties like Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez. They previewed their role Saturday night.

Brogdon entered Game 2 in the bottom of the seventh to take the ball from Andrew Bellatti. Facing the top of the Astros’ lineup, he allowed a single to Jose Altuve but calmly retired his next two batters — Jeremy Peña on a fly ball and Alvarez on a strikeout — to end the inning. It was a big performance in a big time, one that Cotham is confident the Phillies will see more of in the coming games.

“He’s throwing as free as he has all year,” Cotham said. “Obviously, he’s a big weapon for us. The better he is, the better we are. We he knows what he is, so he’s going to get big outings, there’s no doubt about it.”

READ MORE: Game 3 of the Phillies-Astros World Series could be a poncho situation, but any rain delay seems unlikely

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