David Murphy: Kendrick getting it together

Kyle Kendrick is riding a streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings after another gem Sunday, against Milwaukee.
Kyle Kendrick is riding a streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings after another gem Sunday, against Milwaukee. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: August 21, 2012

MILWAUKEE - Charlie Manuel's assessment of Kyle Kendrick's pitching performance was simple.

"He got Braun out," the manager said after Kendrick pitched eight scoreless innings in the Phillies' 8-0 win over the Brewers on Sunday afternoon. "He gets a medal for that."

Braun, of course, is Ryan Braun, the defending National League MVP and a royal pain in the rear end for Phillies pitchers this season. In the first three games of the series, the slugger homered four times in 11 at-bats. But against Kendrick and veteran catcher Brian Schneider, he struck out once, grounded out once and flied out once.

"We just mixed it up," Kendrick said. "Again, Brian called a good game and we just kind of went with my strengths, got him out on a sinker away, I think the second time was a 1-2 cutter, and then a first-pitch change-up. We just tried to mix it up, keep him off balance."

Braun did end up with a double, against Michael Schwimer, which came in the ninth inning after Kendrick had departed. Braun finishes the season 14-for-27 (.519 batting average) with six home runs, three doubles, four walks, scored nine runs and knocked in 10 in seven games against the Phillies.

Kendrick, meanwhile, will head into his next start riding a streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings. Five days after holding the Marlins scoreless for seven innings of a 1-0 win, the righthander held the Brewers to three hits and one walk while tying a career-high with seven strikeouts.

The only extra base Kendrick has allowed in his past two starts came in the first inning, to the first batter he faced on Sunday, when Ty Wigginton appeared to get a poor read on a long fly ball by Nyjer Morgan, allowing it to sail over his head. But Kendrick negated the threat with a heads-up play, snagging a ground ball by Rickie Weeks and catching Morgan halfway down the base path to home plate.

From there, it was all Phillies. With Chase Utley getting his first day off in 30 games, fill-in second baseman Michael Martinez hit a two-run homer in the second inning. In the third inning, Domonic Brown sliced an 0-1 pitch inside the leftfield line to clear the bases and extend the lead to 5-0. Kevin Frandsen and Ryan Howard both hit singles before starter Randy Wolf hit Ty Wigginton with a pitch to load the bases for Brown, who entered the game with three extra-base hits in 63 at-bats. Later in the inning, the rookie outfielder was thrown out at home after being waved around on a single by Martinez.

Brown drove in another run on a single in the ninth inning, tying a career high with four RBI. But the story of the day was Kendrick, who less than 2 weeks ago was answering questions about his future in the rotation. It has been that kind of season for Kendrick, one of only 10 NL pitchers to allow at least five runs in seven outings. And he is one of only nine to pitch at least seven scoreless innings in four outings.

"He looks more confident," Manuel said. "He is definitely more aggressive."

That is partly due to a conversation Manuel had with Kendrick after he allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Braves on Aug. 8. During the meeting, Manuel encouraged Kendrick to be more aggressive, a message that was echoed in a text message that Kendrick received from his father.

"We all go through ups and downs; when things are going bad you just try to minimize the damage and work through it," Kendrick said. "It's easy when things are going well. You just try to keep the lows not that bad."

The Phillies, who entered the day 19 games behind the Nationals in the NL East and 11 games out of the second wild-card spot, improved to 56-65. They are 19-15 since the All-Star break and 11-8 since trading away outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence on July 31.

Phillers

The Phillies begin a three-game series against the Reds on Monday at Citizens Bank Park. It is their first series of the season against the NL Central leaders, who entered Sunday with the second-best record in the NL . . . Manuel chose to start the lefthanded-hitting Brian Schneider instead of the righthanded-hitting Erik Kratz behind the plate. Schneider caught Kendrick's seven scoreless innings against the Marlins . . . Third baseman Placido Polanco (back) is expected to rejoin the team Monday in Philadelphia, at which point he could be activated from the disabled list. After the game, the Phillies optioned infielder Hector Luna back to Triple A to open up a roster spot.


Contact Dave Murphy at dmurphy@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @HighCheese. For Phillies coverage and opinion, read his blog at philly.com/HighCheese.

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