A little luck helped the righthander's cause as he earned his second win in more than a month, a 3-1 Phillies victory over the Nationals on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park.
"I thought he had to battle," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We made a few mistakes with our sloppy play and Kendrick definitely was the guy who got us out of the jams."
Kendrick went seven innings, striking out two batters and walking one. He threw 106 pitches and survived four errors by his defense, three by Chase Utley.
"We all go through little rough patches," Kendrick said. "I feel that before the break, in the past, I've had some rough outings. I was able to bounce back tonight."
Kevin Frandsen pinch-hit for Kendrick in the seventh and drove home the go-ahead run with a double to right-center. He now leads the majors in pinch-hits (11) and pinch-hit RBIs (7).
"Choke and poke right there," Frandsen said. "You never know, if you put a ball in play, good things happen. Fortunately, it was better than just putting it in play."
Utley hustled home in the eighth on Michael Young's ground ball and slid under the tag to add an insurance run.
Before the game, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said that if the trade deadline had been Thursday, the Phillies would be buyers. The Phillies moved within 11/2 games of the second-place Nationals with their sixth win in eight outings. They remained 71/2 games behind first-place Atlanta. No one is running away with the division, Amaro said.
The bullpen is certainly an area of need, but on Thursday it was a strength. Antonio Bastardo pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Jonathan Papelbon earned his 20th save with a shutdown ninth. Papelbon recorded the second out of the inning by making Jayson Werth look foolish as the former Phillie chased Papelbon's outside pitch for a strikeout.
Manuel said it's going to take roughly 90 wins to secure a division title, which means the Phils have to finish 45-26. It is a tall task for a team that has not pieced together five straight wins this season.
Kendrick, who lost his previous two outings, escaped a jam in the fifth after Kurt Suzuki reached second on Michael Young's throwing error to start the inning. Once again, it was a Washington bunt that proved to be Kendrick's safety valve. Zimmermann's sacrifice attempt was fielded by Ruiz, who promptly threw to Young. Suzuki was out at third.
The Phillies struck first, in the fifth inning. Ruiz reached on an infield single, moved to second on Kendrick's sacrifice bunt, and cruised home on Ben Revere's line-drive single to left. The Nationals tied it an inning later after Bryce Harper tripled and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's sacrifice fly.
Jordan Zimmermann puzzled the Phillies early, striking out four batters in the first three innings. He tamed the Phils with precision as he located his fastball on the corners and mixed in a snapping slider.
Kendrick was just as smooth after he escaped a rocky first inning. On the fourth pitch of the game, Utley collided with Darin Ruf and allowed a sure pop-out to bounce foul. But four batters later, Domonic Brown threw a laser from right field to nail Harper at home.
Television replays showed that home plate umpire Kerwin Danley had missed the call and Ruiz's tag was late. It didn't matter. This was Kendrick's night to be lucky.
Contact Matt Breen
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