Braves' early lead holds up against the Phillies

Posted: June 29, 2014

The last time they met the Braves, the Phillies scored 21 runs and allowed only eight over a three-game set to earn a crucial sweep at Turner Field.

Last night’s series opener at Citizens Bank Park failed to follow suit.

Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman homered and drove in four runs, all in the first two innings, and the Philadelphia bats couldn’t muster a comeback in a 4-2 loss. The defeat snapped the Phillies’ four-game winning streak against the Braves, their longest such streak against the division foe since 2011-12.

The Phillies (36-43) have lost five of seven games since their season-high five-game winning streak from June 16 to June 20. They continue their four-game set with the Braves (41-38) today with a day-night doubleheader.

“Not too many opportunities with less than two outs on the offensive side of things,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “[We had] a couple of innings with two men on but one with one out, the other with two outs. [We] really just couldn’t get the big hit off of [Julio] Teheran.”

After surrendering four runs in the first two innings, Kyle Kendrick (3-8) bounced back by throwing up zeros on the scoreboard in the six innings that followed. The Phillies’ righthander set a career high in pitches thrown and tied his career high in strikeouts. First-inning struggles, however, continued to plague him.

Freeman’s three-run homer in the game’s opening frame marked the 14th, 15th and 16th first-inning earned runs Kendrick surrendered in his 16 starts this season. The Braves’ lefthanded slugger drove a first-pitch cutter to centerfield to stake his team to an early 3-0 lead.

In one of the game’s lighter moments, Freeman’s long ball found a home in the glove of Phillies TV play-by-play broadcaster Tom McCarthy. The broadcast team last night conducted its telecast from the centerfield seats, just above the 409-foot marker at Citizens Bank Park, and McCarthy took advantage with a nice snag.

For those wondering, he did toss the ball back onto the field.

An inning later, and also on the first pitch of his at-bat, Freeman doubled to rightield, scoring Simmons again and increasing Atlanta’s lead to four. After that, Kendrick settled in.

“It’s hard to explain,” Sandberg said of Kendrick’s first-inning woes. “He’s worked on it. He’s worked on doing a little up and down, simulating before he comes in as if it’s further along in the game. He just seems to fall behind the hitters a little bit, try to be too perfect, for me, and resulting in some aggressive swings when he’s behind in the count. … After that he seems to figure it out and a lot of times settle in.”

“I’ve done some things, it just hasn’t worked out,” Kendrick said. “Last game in St. Louis, I didn’t give up any runs in the first and then gave up five runs. I gave up three runs in the first and gave up four the whole game in eight innings. I’m just trying to keep working on it.”

The Phillies halved their deficit in the fourth inning. Ben Revere, who had another three-hit game, led off the frame with a standup triple and scored on a Jimmy Rollins’ groundout. Chase Utley singled and later scored on a base hit from Marlon Byrd. Utley needs only a pair of hits to reach 1,500 for his career.

Kendrick, meanwhile, recovered from the three-run first and turned in his longest outing of the season. The veteran lasted eight innings, of added importance, considering the Phillies used six relievers in Thursday’s 14-inning affair, and a doubleheader looms today. Kendrick surrendered nine hits, struck out eight and walked two on 123 pitches, surpassing his previous career of 117, set in 2011.

Teheran (7-5) continued to pitch well against the Phillies, improving to 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in three starts against them this season. Last night, the 23-year-old righthander allowed two runs, only one earned, on six hits in seven innings. He struck out nine, didn’t walk a batter and lowered his season ERA to 2.34.

Teheran has 15 quality starts in his last 17 outings, tying him for most in the majors with the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez and the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka.

The Phillies will look to bounce back this afternoon. The first game, set for a 2:05 first pitch, pits righthander Roberto Hernandez (3-6, 4.41 ERA) against righthander Ervin Santana (5-5, 4.15). For the nightcap, righthander Sean Sullivan will come up from Triple A Lehigh Valley to make a spot start. David Hale (3-2, 2.72) will oppose him. First pitch of the second game is slated for 7:15 p.m.

“We just have to get on another streak,” Kendrick said, “start winning some games.”


On Twitter: @jakemkaplan

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