From The Ballpark: Kendrick Works Through Jams In Phillies Big Win Over Mets
PHILADELPHIA—Kyle Kendrick’s pitch count began a steady climb on Wednesday. His out count did not.
This, well before the 27 minute rain delay called at Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies 7-3 win over the New York Mets (3-6).
You could say it resembled Kendrick's debut in the home opener against the Royals, when a promising few innings gave way to an unraveling.
Only, Kendrick kept it together on Wednesday -- and then some.
After allowing his first two batters to reach in the fifth, he struck out David Wright on a disappearing changeup, and popped up Ike Davis.
With a little help from centerfielder Ben Revere, who after a 30 yard dash and full extension grab doubled up Daniel Murphy at second base to end the inning, Kendrick was in the clear.
Then he worked a 12-pitch sixth inning.
And, maybe little more mojo for his team heading into a six-game road trip.
“He took us where we wanted to go,” manager Charlie Manuel said.
For Phillies (4-5) starters so far, that simply hadn’t been the case. Cole Hamels has struggled. Roy Halladay seems in decline. Even Kendrick, who won himself a spot in the rotation with mid-summer brilliance last year, couldn’t get himself even out of the sixth inning just last Friday.
Where he was once Exhibit B of the Phillies rotation’s subpar start, Kendrick is now part of an uptick: back-to-back solid starts.
“It was a nice win for us,” said Kendrick.
It wasn’t pretty. Kendrick served just 2 earned runs, both solo home runs. But he allowed 8 hits, tossed a wild pitch, and worked himself into a bases-loaded jam in the second and put runners on second and third in the fifth.
But baseball’s not a game of aesthetics. It’s a game of results.
And results, Kendrick offered.
He fanned back-to-back batters to get out of the second inning, both on called strike three sinkers that kissed the corner of the zone.
Then came the Davis fly ball and Revere double up in the fifth.
“It’s always nice to get out of jams,” said Kendrick. “You always try to minimize the damage. One here, one there. But just try to stay away from big innings.”
His sidestepping of trouble in the second, for record, came after allowing 3 straight batters to reach after Mets catcher John Buck tattooed the first pitch he saw for home run No. 1. Not exactly easy to compartmentalize.
That he did makes the Phillies early struggles a bit easier to forget.
“It’s important,” Manuel said. “It’s important that we win these games. It’s important that he took us where we wanted to go.”
One of the biggest perks Kendrick's outing: it set the table for a procession of pitchers the Phillies built the team for, but haven’t seen much of yet.
With Kendrick having gone six innings, it allowed Manuel to deploy Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, without delving into any iffy middle relief.
Suffice it to say, the Phillies could use more of that.
“He definitely did that,” said Manuel.
Wednesday wasn’t without another offensive eruption. Chase Utley and Dom Brown both went yard as part of a 5 run first inning.
Laynce Nix, maybe playing for his job as even a platoon player in right field, tore a sixth inning bomb just shy of Chickie’s in the sixth.
After starting the year 5 for 28 (.178) with runners in scoring position, the Phillies are now 13 for 29 (.448), and, it seems, grooving.
For Kendrick, starts like this used to assume the feel of baby steps toward personal arrival.
But for the Phillies, who may soon need to consider plucking Halladay from the rotation, outings like this from Kendrick move ever so closely toward validation that he may be able to prop up top aces as a No. 3 starter.
“A lot of times with me, I feel like, as the game keeps moving on, I feel more comfortable, I feel stronger,” he said.
Maybe Manuel is beginning to feel the same way about Kendrick. Did he always?
In the home opener against Kansas City, after Kendrick put runners on second and third and walked a batter to load the bases, bringing up Royals righthander Billy Butler, Manuel opted to turn it over to the bullpen.
Kendrick needed just one out.
He wanted to get that one out.
Instead, Butler cleared the bases on Chad Durbin, all but burying the Phillies.
Tonight, was Manuel seeing what his starter could do? Had he seen enough of some others?
Questions for another time, maybe.
For now, what’s certain is Kendrick’s mindset – and, maybe, his ability to pull it off.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “As the game goes on, I feel like I get a little bit stronger.
“I definitely want to finish that inning.”