Evidence is swaying toward a fire sale. This clunker followed two tight victories that should have lacked drama. The Phillies are stuck in mediocrity, and a lifeless National League East can keep them afloat for only so long.
"We'll see how the guys step up," Ruben Amaro Jr. said before he watched zero Phillies step up in 3 hours and 22 minutes of torturous baseball. The general manager faces franchise-altering decisions. Ownership does not want an implosion. But Howard's injury was the latest hint at how dangerous it is to rely on an expensive and aging roster. The Phillies will play eight more games before the all-star break. It could be the final chance to see popular players in red pinstripes.
"Our lineup looks different without Howard in there," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's still a threat."
The Phillies lost by five or more runs for the 18th time in 88 games. Their four pitchers surrendered 19 hits, the most in any game this season. That, combined with the stifling heat, made everyone grumpy.
The team announced an attendance of 37,044. They drew 44,441 against Atlanta on the same date a year ago. Only Miami has suffered a worse drop in average attendance. If the Phillies continue to tumble, the crowds will shrink.
Kendrick slogged from the beginning. Dan Uggla smacked a two-run homer in the second. Pitching coach Rich Dubee needed to come out for a chat just eight batters into the game. The Braves loaded the bases with no outs, but Kendrick escaped. It delayed the inevitable.
Kendrick's ERA ballooned to 3.90, the highest it has been since the second week of April. This marked the third time in five starts he allowed at least four runs.
"He was in trouble every inning," Manuel said.
"It was their night," Kendrick said.
Before Saturday, Kendrick had dominated the Braves in 19 career games (13 starts). He had a 2.86 ERA in those outings. He permitted six runs in five innings Saturday. Atlanta ransacked him for 12 hits, which established a new career high.
Some of them were not hits. The Braves pelted balls at Michael Young all night. He was slow to react. He misplayed others. Young could have been charged with two errors in the fifth inning. When Kendrick's final pitch was hit right at Young, and he fielded it, apathy in the stands turned to mocking cheers.
Young is but one player who could be traded in the coming weeks. He has a full no-trade clause, but would probably consider the chance to contend. Scouts from opposing teams may not see the 36-year-old veteran as a third baseman the way the Phillies do.
Fans started to buzz in the seventh inning. They pointed, but not at the diamond. Fireworks exploded nearby in South Philly. In between blasts, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward smashed a three-run homer to right. Retreating patrons filled the aisles.
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