The Phillies squared off against the Braves Tuesday night in Atlanta for the second of a three game set. Starting pitchers Kyle Kendrick and Ervin Santana entered the game with identical ERA’s, with Kendrick sporting a 9.00 ERA in first innings this season.
Kendrick, however, looked good early, throwing 10 of his first 12 pitches for strikes and working around a Freddie Freeman two-out double to throw a scoreless first. Meanwhile, the Phillies went to work quickly against Santana in the top of the first when Jimmy Rollins lead off the game with a hard line drive that bounced over the wall in right. With two outs, Ryan Howard sent a 3-2 offering from Santana into the left field seats, an opposite field shot that gave the Phillies an early 2-0 lead. Domonic Brown singled before John Mayberry Jr. worked a two-out walk, but Santana recovered to retire Reid Brignac to end the first.
Cesar Hernandez, starting at second with Chase Utley getting a day off, singled up the middle to start the second inning. However, he was thrown out trying to take second during Kendrick’s at-bat, and he and Rollins struck out to end the Phillies half of the inning.
The Phillies went down 1-2-3 in the top of the third. After retiring five straight batters, Jason Heyward hit a two-out double and moved to third on B.J. Upton’s single to left, but was neither scored when Freeman flew out to end the inning.
Brown led off the fourth with a walk. With one out, Brignac showed some hustle on a double to center before a Santana pitch got away from catcher Gerald Laird, allowing Brown to score from third. Hernandez followed up with a single to shallow center to score Brignac, putting the Phillies up 4-0. In the bottom of the inning, the Braves were retired in order, punctuated by a nifty play by Hernandez to snag a ball hit up the middle for the third out.
Carlos Ruiz doubled to left to lead off the fifth, but was stranded along with the intentionally walked Howard after a Brown fly-out and groundout by Mayberry. Laird walked to begin the bottom of the fifth, and scored on a two out single to center field off the bat of Heyward before B.J. Upton was retired for the third out.
Santana was relieved by Pedro Beato after six innings. He threw 110 pitches and allowed 11 base runners (8 H, 3 BB) with five strikeouts. Beato pitched around a leadoff single by Ruiz to keep the Braves within three. With Kendrick back for the seventh, Chris Johnson smacked a double to deep right ahead of Andrelton Simmons, whose single to right moved Johnson to third with no outs. Laird grounded into a double play to score Johnson, but Kendrick was able to limit the damage by striking out Jordan Schafer to end the inning.
With the score at 4-2, Beato again took the mound for Atlanta. He didn’t look nearly as sharp this time, walking Mayberry to lead off the inning, and, two outs later, awarding free passes to the pinch-hitting Utley and Rollins. Beato was then pulled in favor of righty Shae Simmons, who got the force out at second to end the threat. Jake Diekman took the mound in the bottom of the eighth and struck out two in a clean inning of relief.
Luis Avilan relieved Simmons in the ninth. Marlon Byrd reached first on a hit to short that Andrelton Simmons wasn’t able to field properly as he fell to the ground. His throw went wide to first for an error, allowing Byrd to move to second. Howard walked as Byrd took a huge lead to steal third easily. Brown hit a ground ball to Simmons that took a tricky hop and got away from him, allowing Byrd to score. Atlanta was able to stop the bleeding as Avilan got a double play off the bat of Brignac following a Mayberry flyout.
A day after recording just his second blown save of the season, Jonathan Papelbon came in for the save with a 5-2 lead. He left little doubt with this one, sitting down the Braves in order to close out the win.
Kyle Kendrick: 7IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K (90 Pitches, 61 Strikes)
Ryan Howard: 1-3, HR (13), 2 RBI, 2BB
Carlos Ruiz: 2-5, 2B
The Phillies offense looked good tonight, taking a patient approach and making Santana throw a lot of pitches over six innings. Howard looked especially good on his opposite field homer; he may be hitting poorly overall, but, surprisingly, he’s still top ten in the NL in RBI’s with 45. Kendrick was aggressive, spotted his splitter well, and didn’t get rattled with men on base. The offense did their part tonight, and, for the second straight start, so did Kendrick, who has now won back-to-back starts. It’s a huge win for a team just five games out of first place.
Up Next: The Phillies and Braves play the final game of their three game set, with Roberto Hernandez (2-5) squaring off opposite Atlanta’s Aaron Harang (5-5) as the Phillies eye a sweep of the series. The game starts at 12:10 PM.