Yes, the Nats have a gigantic lead on the Phillies in the standings. Yes, as usual one of the teams in this inter-divisional matchup will be playing in October while another one wallows in the basement, and this year the shoe is on the other foot. Yes, the Phillies’ season has become a glorified audition for 2013. But, for one sweet night, behind the right arm of Kyle Kendrick, it felt like better days. It was throwback night at CBP tonight, 2007-2011 edition. And, just like in those better times, the Phillies found themselves on top, this time winning, 4-2. The pitching was superb and the offense did enough. It’s a formula that became quite familiar over the last couple seasons.
BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR CY KENDRICK
– Ladies and gentleman, you have a new ace, and his name is Kyle Kendrick. Alright, maybe that’s a bit extreme. But! Coming into tonight’s game, Kendrick had a fifteen inning scoreless streak. Tonight he kept on rolling, running the scoreless streak to twenty-one straight innings, before losing it in the seventh. Lately, he has been pitching like a bona fide ace.
– Tonight’s start was nothing to turn your nose up to. It came against a first-place Nats team that has scored the third most runs in the NL since the All Star break. And while he did allow a two-run home run to the final hitter of the evening, it came on his 115th and final pitch of the outing. It was disappointing that he couldn’t finish off the seventh, but that shouldn’t discount the six scoreless innings he threw to get to that point. Frankly, with a better bullpen, I suspect Manuel would’ve gone to a reliever after Kendrick walked Kurt Suzuki in the at-bat before he allowed the home run. Also, bear in mind those were the first runs KK allowed in his last three starts.
– Kendrick’s final line: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. I think everyone would take that from Kendrick every time out.
– Behind only Cole Hamels, Kendrick has been the Phillies’ best pitcher over the last couple of weeks. The coaching staff attributes this to KK’s heavier reliance on his changeup, which has become one of his main pitches during his last few starts. He’d once again turn to that pitch tonight, and the results remained positive. He may be on to something here.
THE OFFENSE GETS IT DONE
– The offense did just enough to get the W tonight. They made Edwin Jackson work, and forced him out of the game after six innings. They probably could’ve scored more off Jackson, but it’s tough to complain when you win. Chase Utley drove in one in the first with a double, and Jimmy Rollins drove in two more in the fourth.
– They’d tack on an insurance run in the eighth when Utley walked, promptly stole second, and was driven in by a Ryan Howard single.
THE BULLPEN FINDS A WAY
– At this point, you know how dreadful the eighth inning has been. I can barely watch whenever the Phillies turn to Antonio Bastardo to navigate what has been the most treacherous series of outs all season. Tonight, they did just that. Mix in the top of the Nats lineup, and the stomachs of the entire Phillies fanbase collectively turned. But Manuel channeled his inner-Tony La Russa, opting to play the matchups instead of leaving Bastardo in for the entire frame. Maybe he should’ve stuck with Bastardo–who got Harper rather easily–because trouble started as soon as he lifted him for Josh Lindblom.
– A walk, a pitching change for Raul Valdes, a single, and the Phils were in a one-out jam, nursing a one-run lead. Valdes recorded a strikeout, and Manuel once again went to his ‘pen. This time, it was B.J. Rosenberg out of the door, in what would be a pivotal at-bat for Jayson Werth. Another struck out and, by some act of God perhaps, the threat was neutralized. Long sighs of relief abound.