Kyle Kendrick has experienced the first-inning blues. It matches the Phillies' first-half blahs. Both the pitcher and team have yet to get going this season, at least for any sustained length of time.
Kendrick gave up a three-run, first-inning homer to Jayson Werth on a hanging curveball, setting the tone for a 10-3 loss to the Washington Nationals Sunday at Citizens Bank Park in the final game before the all-star break.
During the opening inning this season, Kendrick has allowed 24 earned runs in 19 innings for a hefty 11.37 ERA. He has served up seven first-inning home runs.
Conversely, winning pitcher Tanner Roark has allowed eight home runs altogether in 1132/3 innings. He limited the Phillies to one run in seven innings.
Kendrick insisted afterward that the first-inning struggles aren't in his head.
"No, not at all," said Kendrick, who allowed five runs (all earned) in 52/3 innings. "Today was great, I felt great. I just have to make the pitches in the first inning."
If only it was that simple.
The Phillies are 42-53 and sit 10 games out of first place in the National League East. At the all-star break last year, they were 48-48 and 61/2 games out of first.
Even though the Phillies weren't picked to be a contender, the players appear more than mildly surprised to be 11 games under .500 at this juncture.
"I don't think that's what you set out for during spring training," said all-star second baseman Chase Utley. "But at this point, all we can try to do is continue to try to get better, and that's the name of the game."
Manager Ryne Sandberg had a predictable response when asked his feelings about the team's disappointing first half.
"Not pleased," Sandberg said. "Not pleased with the record."
He's also not pleased with a sputtering offense. The Phillies' .662 OPS is 14th among 15 National League teams.
"That part's been surprising," he said of the offense's struggles.
"That's something - consistent offense and key hits - that'll be needed in the remainder of games."
No one on the Phillies is throwing in the towel, but someone may have to start warming up. "I think we can play better than we have," Utley said.
He had better hope so.
"We've shown some glimpses of it here and there, but we've got to continue to grind and continue to put out that effort every day," Utley said.
There had been hope Friday when the Phillies opened the series with a 6-2 win for their fifth straight victory that they might make a run before the break. But any momentum has dissipated after consecutive losses.
There are just 13 games left before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. It looks like the "for sale" sign will be situated at 1 Citizens Bank Park Way.
After Werth's home run, Kendrick retired 14 consecutive batters.
In the sixth inning, Kendrick encountered more trouble and was lifted after a sacrifice fly by Ryan Zimmerman made it 4-0. Mario Hollands then allowed a single by Bryce Harper, a two-run double by Ian Desmond and an RBI single by catcher Jose Lobaton, which padded the lead to 7-0.
The rout was on.
Now the Phillies are left pondering what they face in the final 67 games of a season that has yet to gain any sustained steam.
BY THE NUMBERS
Kyle Kendrick's ERA in the first inning.
The Phillies' record at the all-star break.
Their record at the break last season.