Kendrick avoids the storm in Phillies' win

DAVID M WARREN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Maybe Domonic Brown is waiting for a thank you from Ryan Howard after Brown's home run in the first inning scored Howard and Michael Young.
DAVID M WARREN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Maybe Domonic Brown is waiting for a thank you from Ryan Howard after Brown's home run in the first inning scored Howard and Michael Young. (is waiting for a thank you from Ryan Howard after Brown's home run in the first inning scored Howard and Michael Young.)
Posted: April 12, 2013

BEFORE THE RAIN delay in the bottom of the fourth inning, Kyle Kendrick labored. After the 27-minute stoppage in play was over, Kendrick moved slower than the line at your local DMV.

Kendrick worked his way in and out of jams, watched the Mets foul off one pitch after another and took his time getting himself collected before just about every pitch he threw on Wednesday night.

Kendrick's second start of the season wasn't pretty. But when you looked up at the end of it, it was effective, a 7-3 win over the Mets.

"He battled, hung in there and took us where we wanted to go," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Despite enduring boobirds and raindrops alike, Kendrick hung around for six innings and held the Mets to two runs to help the Phillies win their first series of the season. And you can't forget those home runs from Chase Utley and Domonic Brown.

"It was one of those nights when you had to battle," Kendrick said of his laborious but successful night. "I wanted to go as deep as I could. I gave up a couple of runs, but I was able to keep us in the game. The guys scored some runs tonight, had some good defense . . . We were able to win the game, win the series."

It wasn't only the first series win, but also the first time the Phils recorded consecutive wins in 2013.

Of course, winning two games in a row is difficult to do when your starting pitchers have a major league worst 6.43 ERA. While the struggles of Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels have been well-documented, Kendrick also contributed to the rotation's ugly start.

In the Phillies' home opener 5 days earlier, Kendrick was handed a 4-0 lead after the game's first three innings. But he ran into trouble midway through and was taken out when he flirted with disaster for a second straight inning in the loss to the Kansas City Royals.

On Wednesday night, Kendrick once again got a healthy heap of early support from his teammates. Each of the first six batters in the bottom half of the first reached base off Mets starter Jeremy Hefner in a five-run inning.

But the inning started on a sour note when Ben Revere drew a leadoff walk and successfully stole second base . . . until second base umpire Jim Reynolds signaled an out after Revere over-slid the bag and was tagged.

Jimmy Rollins followed with a double, which would have easily scored Revere. But all was quickly forgotten when Utley drilled the third pitch he saw more than 400 feet, over the fence in dead center to make it 2-0.

After Ryan Howard and Michael Young followed with a single and a walk, respectively, Brown launched his second home run of the homestand. Brown's latest bomb found a home in the second deck of seats in right and gave Kendrick a comfortable 5-0 lead.

"We definitely needed it," Howard said of the inning's second homer, which proved to be the difference in the game. "It came at a good point in the game. We had a lot of momentum going on."

After leaving 26 men on base against Atlanta a week ago and making fashionably late arrivals against Kansas City over the weekend, the Phillies' offense cashed in regularly against the Mets. They scored 15 runs in the last two games of the series and got production from all eight spots in the lineup.

"It was just a matter of time before we got hits with runners on," Manuel said. "We've been hitting the ball pretty good."

Kendrick looked ready to give back the early run support when he returned to the mound after the five-run first. Mets catcher John Buck ripped his fifth home run of the season with one out and each of the next three batters reached to load the bases.

But after striking out Hefner, Kendrick outlasted New York leadoff hitter Jordany Valdespin, sneaking a sinker on the lower, inner half of the plate for a called third strike on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.

"I've been here and have been able to watch Kyle grow as a player and mature as a pitcher," Howard said. "He keeps it calm when he's in tough situations. He gets us out of there with minimal damage."

Kendrick followed a similar pattern in the fourth, giving up a one-out, solo homer to Lucas Duda and then a double to Mike Baxter before inducing two groundball outs.

In the fifth, the first two batters reached on a bunt base hit and a walk, but Kendrick struck out David Wright and then got a little help from an absent-minded Daniel Murphy, who was doubled off second on a routine flyball to shallow center.

"It was big, obviously I was pretty excited about it," Kendrick said of the play. "I was happy it happened . . . It's always nice to get out of jams. You just try to minimize damage, stay out of big innings."

Kendrick pitched one more, uneventful inning before handing the baton over to a back of the bullpen that has been as absent as the rotation has been ineffective in the first 2 weeks of the season. Kendrick's ability to overcome an early high pitch count, dodge an early exit due to the rain delay and find the back of the bullpen was more impressive than any of the 105 pitches he threw.

"That's important," Manuel said of Kendrick finding a way to pitch six innings. "It's important that we won the game and it's important that he took us where we wanted to go."

For the first time all season, the trio of lefty Antonio Bastardo, setup man Mike Adams and closer Jonathan Papelbon all pitched in succession to nail down the Phillies' fourth win of the season. Thanks to back-to-back quality starts from Cliff Lee and Kendrick, the Phillies (4-5) can climb to .500 for the first time in 2013 when they to face the hapless Marlins (1-8) Friday night in Miami.

Washington and Atlanta, the two teams the Phillies will try to keep pace with this summer, each have swept the Marlins in three-game series already this season.

"We definitely need to play the Marlins," Manuel said, "and we need to win the series."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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