Phillies' road trip has bumpy ending

DILIP VISHWANAT / GETTY IMAGES Kyle Kendrick unleashes pitch in first inning against Cardinals.
DILIP VISHWANAT / GETTY IMAGES Kyle Kendrick unleashes pitch in first inning against Cardinals.
Posted: June 24, 2014

ST. LOUIS - For three-and-a-half innings, the Phillies appeared to be on the verge of a win that would have forced you to change the adjectives you used to describe their road trip. At the start of the day, it was successful. But after roaring out to a three-run lead and raising the possibility of flying back to Philadelphia having won six of seven games against the Cardinals and the Braves, it was starting to look stunning.

Then, things unraveled.

The Cardinals exploded for four runs in the fourth inning, added another in the sixth, and held on for a 5-3 win that salvaged a split of the four-game series at Busch Stadium. They also showed the Phillies just how long the climb back to contention can be for a team that was nine game under .500 in mid-June. That's where Ryne Sandberg's squad was when it arrived at Turner Field last Monday for the start of a weeklong road trip against two of the National League's top contenders. And despite sweeping the Braves and winning the first two against the Cardinals, they return to Citizens Bank Park today with a 34-40 record and a five-game deficit in the NL East.

That's better than the alternative, which looked to be a very real possibility for a team that finished off its last home stand by losing two of three to the lowly Cubs. But with 38 days remaining until the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, their time could be limited.

"Well, it didn't end the way that we wanted it to," Sandberg said. "We put together some pitching and some hitting and we played defense, so we put a lot of the parts of the game together to have a road trip like we had, but it didn't quite end the way we wanted it to."

For most of the last week, the Phillies have been able to spot their starting pitchers early leads, and the starting pitchers have been able to hold them. Yesterday, things went south for Kyle Kendrick after he allowed a one-out double to Matt Adams in the fourth inning. The Phillies had a 3-0 lead thanks to a bases-clearing double by Cody Asche in the second inning, but Kendrick walked Allen Craig and allowed a single to Yadier Molina to load the bases, setting up an RBI single by Jon Jay and a two-run single by Jhonny Peralta.

On Peralta's hit, a liner up the middle, Ryan Howard cut off Ben Revere's throw from shallow centerfield just before it bounced in front of the mound, but the first baseman dropped it before he could attempt a throw to third, where he might have been able to throw out Jay, who then scored on a perfectly executed safety squeeze by Mark Ellis to give the Cardinals the lead.

St. Louis added a run in the sixth inning after Kendrick allowed a trio of singles, the last of them off the bat of Ellis, driving in Molina.

"I wasn't able to minimize it," said Kendrick, who was charged with five runs, all of them earned, on eight hits and a walk with two strikeouts in six innings, raising his ERA to 4.20.

The Phillies' lineup also wasn't able to tack on any more runs against righty Carlos Martinez or the relievers who followed him. Martinez, a highly touted 22-year-old prospect who has spent most of the year in the Cardinals' bullpen, was making the third start of his big-league career. He retired the first three batters he faced and then 12 of the last 13. In between, he allowed four straight to reach base, one on a dribbler that barely reached the outfield grass on the weak side of the shift (Howard), one on a hit-by-pitch (John Mayberry Jr.), one on a walk (Domonic Brown), and the last on Asche's three-run double.

Martinez will likely remain in the rotation for the Cardinals, who suffered a huge blow after the game when they placed starters Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha on the disabled list with shoulder injuries.

Four relievers combined to hold the Phillies to two hits over the last four innings. Thus, a road trip that started with Sandberg's offense scoring 30 runs over five games ended with it scoring four in its last two games. Now, the Phillies head home for eight games in 7 days against two teams it trails in the division. Both teams lost yesterday, Atlanta falling to 38-37 and the Marlins to 37-38. The Braves and Phillies play a doubleheader Saturday.

"We've got a big opportunity in front of us going home," Asche said. "Eight games, all of them in our division. I think if we keep playing the way we are playing, we're going to find ourselves in a good position."

On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy


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