Saturday, May 26, 2012

Kendrick's gem lifts Phillies to fourth straight win

ST. LOUIS – For the second straight season, Kyle Kendrick has become a semi-regular in the Phillies rotation as a byproduct of injuries.
For the second straight season, he hasn’t hurt his team when he takes the mound every fifth day.
“He’s kept us in the game,” manager Charlie Manuel said prior to Saturday night’s game at Busch Stadium. “And sometimes, if you keep us in the game, that’s all you can do. If we have a chance to win the game… he’s done that.”
To be fair to Kendrick, he has done more that keep his team in games. More often than not, he’s put them in position to win games, too.

In a month when just about every member of the rotation other than Cole Hamels has stumbled, Kendrick has been dependable and, at least for one night, dominate.
Kendrick threw the first shutout of his career in a 4-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday night.
“That’s a good offense over there – it’s a good feeling,” Kendrick said of the shutout. “I wanted to go out and finish it and give the bullpen a rest. I’m excited to watch Roy (Halladay) tomorrow.”
The win was the fourth straight for the Phillies, who send Roy Halladay to the mound Sunday afternoon for the chance to complete a four-game, holiday weekend sweep over the defending World Series champions. Although the Phils (25-23) will remain in last place when they leave St. Louis today, they are two games above .500 for just the second time this season.
Kendrick needed just 94 pitches to dispatch the Cardinals Saturday night.
He held St. Louis to seven hits while getting 13 ground ball outs, two of them for double plays.
Kendrick threw 70 of his 94 pitches for strikes.
“I knew watching the games coming up they were going to be aggressive,” Kendrick said. “They were swinging early, and Brian (Schneider) and I had a good game plan. We went over it with (pitching coach Rich) Dubee and we had a good game plan and just mixing up, keeping them off balance, a lot of
first-pitch change-ups, sinker down. I knew they were going to be aggressive and I was trying to force some early contact and get some quick outs."
Kendrick struck out three and walked zero, improving to 1-1 with a 1.33 in four starts this month. The complete game was the second of his career.
Since getting shelled for seven runs in his first start of the season, last month in Arizona, Kendrick has a 1.64 ERA in his last five starts.
“It’s a big pick up for us and for Kyle,” said Schneider, who gave Carlos Ruiz a rare, full game off. “I’m glad he had it and I’m proud of him. To get his self-confidence back is huge.”
In Kendrick’s last 21 starts – the six he’s made this season and the 15 he made in 2011 – he has a 3.18 ERA. Kendrick has allowed two runs or less in 15 of those 21 starts.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Kendrick’s 3.18 ERA is 15th best among National League pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings as a starter. Kendrick’s run of success as a starter has made it legit to wonder if he should stay in the rotation for good.
Current fifth starter Joe Blanton, a free agent at the end of the year, has a 4.24 ERA in his last 21 starts. Blanton, the only other Phillies starter to throw a shutout this season, blanking the Braves on May 3, has a 7.25 ERA in his four games since and has allowed 14 runs in his last two starts.
“Right now, my role is to do what I'm doing and that's fine,” Kendrick said. “But I want to start. Right now, that's out of my hands, but if I keep doing that, I'm sure I'll be starting somewhere.”
“Right now he stays in the rotation,” manager Charlie Manuel said of Kendrick, who has made three straight starts in place of Vance Worley.
“There's no sense sending a message that once Worley comes back, (Kendrick) is out of the rotation. I'm not sending him that kind of message. Right now he's in our rotation.”
Kendrick, who signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract that would make him an affordable replacement for Blanton in 2013, got all of the offense he would need in the fourth inning. After Hunter Pence led off with a single, Shane Victorino followed two batters later with an RBI double to give the Phils a 1-0 lead.
In the sixth, the offense padded the lead for Kendrick.
Placido Polanco doubled, and both Pence and Victorino worked walks before John Mayberry Jr. ripped a two-run double down the left field line. When Freddy Galvis followed with a ground ball out to shortstop, scoring Victorino, Kendrick had a 4-0 lead.
Despite Kendrick’s success as a starter this season, Saturday night was his first win of the season, as his manager was quick to point out after the game.
“I expect him to win more games,” Manuel said.
Kendrick has allowed two runs or less in each of his last five starts. So what does he have to do to earn more respect, other than have more luck in the fickle win category?
“I'm a totally different pitcher than I was two years ago, three years ago,” Kendrick said of people still pegging him as the pitcher who had a 5.49 ERA in 2008. “ I think I'm going to keep getting better. That's the plan. And if I keep doing that, I'll be starting somewhere. Hopefully here.”


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