At least one pitcher delivered

Kyle Kendrick allowed five hits and a run through seven innings.
Kyle Kendrick allowed five hits and a run through seven innings. (TIM HEITMAN / USA Today)
Posted: April 04, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas - For seven innings Wednesday night, Kyle Kendrick did everything he could to send the Phillies to Chicago with some momentum.

Then Jonathan Papelbon faced seven batters in the ninth and the Phillies suffered a fall of Humpty Dumpty proportion, leaving Globe Life Park with the kind of sickening fall-from-ahead loss that was so familiar a year ago when the Philadelphia baseball empire collapsed.

The 4-3 walk-off loss to the Texas Rangers deprived the Phillies of a series victory, created more doubts about the closer and the bullpen and did nothing for the confidence of a team that desperately needs it.

Papelbon and manager Ryne Sandberg each tried to paint it as nothing more than a difficult loss here in the embryonic stages of the season, but the Phillies are a team that cannot afford to let things spiral in the wrong direction early. They arrived fragile and they must pick up the pieces quickly.

Sandberg tried to do that by focusing more on the positives that he saw as his team dropped the last two games of the three-game opening series against the Rangers.

"We had some good offense," Sandberg said. "[Ryan Howard] had a two-run homer off the lefty [Robbie Ross], we had some hits up and down the lineup, but it was just a tough ending."

The manager, of course, couldn't say much good about his closer, who retired just one of the seven batters he faced and surrendered a 3-1 lead. The majority of Papelbon's 21 pitches were up and he ended up walking the final two batters he faced, including Shin Soo-Choo with the bases loaded.

"Well, he was just up in the zone," Sandberg said. "He was just featuring a lot of fastballs and they happened to be up. Even a 0-2 fastball he threw was shoulder high and it was still a hittable pitch."

As much as he struggled, Papelbon thought he had induced a game-ending double play from Leonys Martin, but when he turned around the ball was in center field and Mitch Moreland was headed home with the game-tying run.

Sandberg said he had ordered the infield in because he thought the speedy Martin would be too difficult to execute a double play on.

"You get a double-play ball, which you think is a game-ending double play and it's not," Papelbon said. "It was just one of those innings. Obviously I don't know if that is the call from the bench or the call is from the middle infielders, but with less than two outs, I'm thinking let's get this ground ball and let's get this double play and go home. Obviously I'm not going to second guess my teammates and my coach. Whatever they decide, I have to go with it and run with it and do my job. It was just one of those weird innings, man."

All that chaos destroyed the order that Kendrick had provided the Phillies in his first start of the season.

Kendrick was exactly what the Phillies needed him to be, delivering seven sensational innings, allowing just one run on five hits. It was the kind of effort that defied the doubters who believe he is nothing more than a backend of the rotation starter.

Phillies first-year TV analyst Jamie Moyer doesn't think Kendrick should worry about any of the labels, which is sound advice from a guy who was being labeled a has-been at 29 when he was briefly out of baseball before pitching another 20 years.

Kendrick will pitch most of this season at age 29.

"The only one who can change [the label] is you," Moyer said. "For me, it made me work a little bit harder, be more diligent and try to challenge myself to become a better pitcher. I tried to become more observant and tried to figure out how I could learn and how I could better myself."

Kendrick's best work on this night came in the first. After the offense had given him a 1-0 lead, Kendrick found himself in immediate danger of losing it when Choo and Elvis Andrus opened the bottom of the first with singles. Thanks to a Domonic Brown throwing error, the Rangers had runners on second and third with nobody out.

The great escape started with a strikeout of Prince Fielder, who chased a cut fastball out of the strike zone. Adrian Beltre, the Texas hero Tuesday night, followed with a grounder back to the mound that Kendrick mishandled. Choo, however, had wandered too far off third base and was tagged out in a rundown. Kendrick ended the inning by getting Alex Rios on a fly ball to center field.

And then the Phillies righthander settled in, retiring 15 of the next 18 hitters he faced before Mitch Moreland tripled and scored on a Leonys Martin single in the seventh. But even after surrendering that run, Kendrick had still given the Phils their best pitching performance of the series.

It didn't matter, however, because Papelbon was about to give it all away.


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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