Kendrick struggles again as Phillies fall to Cubs
CHICAGO - The signing of Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez on Friday brought the front end of the Phillies' 2014 starting rotation into crystal clear focus.
Barring a trade or injury, the top three starters next season are likely to be Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Gonzalez, a trio that should be good enough to win as long as some other roster alterations are made.
Still unclear is what the back end of the rotation will look like, with Kyle Kendrick's downward spiral being one of the main reasons. It continued Sunday as the veteran righthander surrendered five runs and eight hits in six innings during a 7-1 Phillies loss to the Chicago Cubs.
"The last two or three outings it has been something a little bit different, but today he just didn't have his two-seam fastball," interim manager Ryne Sandberg said. "With men on base, he wasn't able to get ground balls for double plays and he was pitching up thigh level without the sink to it. Those balls got hit in the gap with men on base."
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After winning Friday in his return to Wrigley Field, Sandberg had to watch a couple of losses and a listless offense, which scored once and managed just six hits in the final 14 innings of the series.
Darin Ruf accounted for the Phillies' only run with a fourth-inning homer. It was his 12th of the season, giving him one more than Ryan Howard had in 114 more at-bats. Ruf, who didn't join the team until July 6, also has more home runs than everyone else on the Phillies roster except Domonic Brown and Chase Utley.
With the late Saturday night trade that sent Michael Young to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Brown on the bench with a sore right Achilles tendon, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that the Phillies' offense struggled. The Phils had three hits against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta and four in the game.
The bigger issue, however, was the continued ineffectiveness of Kendrick.
Six weeks into this season, he was 4-1 with a 2.47 ERA and had pitched better than any member of the starting rotation. Since then, he is 6-11 with a 5.46 earned run average in 20 starts. The scariest statistic: he has allowed 147 hits in 117 innings during that span.
"Like I've said before, I just have to keep pitching and hope that things turn around sooner rather than later," Kendrick said. "I'm going to keep taking the ball, I know that."
Kendrick, 10-12 overall, has gone beyond the sixth inning just once in his last 12 starts and is 3-8 with a 6.23 ERA since June 30.
The 29-year-old righthander is in the final year of a two-year, $7.5 million deal and will be eligible for salary arbitration after the season. At one point this year, it seemed entirely possible that the Phillies would offer Kendrick a multiyear extension. Now, it's possible that they'll let the righthander walk as a non-tendered free agent.
Because of his durability - he has never been on the disabled list during his seven-year career - Kendrick brings value to any pitching staff, but his one-year arbitration figure for next season could be more than the Phillies are willing to pay.
Against the Cubs, Kendrick was hit early, often and hard. He gave up one run on two hits in the first inning, another run on two hits in the third and three more runs on three hits in the fourth.
Reliever J.C. Ramirez walked three batters and surrendered two runs in the eighth, erasing any thoughts of a ninth-inning Phillies rally.
The team slipped to 9-8 in Sandberg's 17 games as interim manager.
"Lack of scoring, lack of hits, it kind of turns into a flat game for us," Sandberg said.
Contact Bob Brookover at email@example.com.
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