ATLANTA - It was 3:14 p.m. when Gerry Davis looked to the gray sky. Kyle Kendrick finished his warm-up tosses for the sixth inning, and waited in a downpour. No one wanted to continue, not when the Phillies trailed by five runs and had a plane to catch.
Davis, the home-plate umpire, waved the Phillies to their dugout. That is how Kendrick's 20th start in 2014 ended Sunday.
The 29-year-old righthander eradicated whatever trade value he possessed with his third straight miserable outing, an 8-2 Phillies loss to the Braves. Four runs scored in the third inning after Kendrick walked two and hit two. He appeared overmatched.
His manager, Ryne Sandberg, issued a sharp critique.
"He tends to pitch away from contact, then free passes happen and they result in runs on the board," Sandberg said. "Today's game, he just put us in a big hole early."
Kendrick survived his bane, the first inning, on 12 pitches. What followed was too predictable. Kendrick has a 5.38 ERA in the last calendar year (30 starts, a full season's worth). That is the worst ERA for any major-league pitcher with at least 30 starts during that span.
"It's been a tough year for me," said Kendrick, a free agent this winter. "I don't know why; it just hasn't been a good year. Guys have bad years and so far that's how it's been. I have to keep pitching."
Sandberg, when asked if Kendrick rotation job was safe, said, "We'll see if we have conversations about things, about personnel, and go from there." The closeness of the trade deadline muddles plans because other starters could be traded in the coming days.
The inevitable was delayed for 1 hour, 39 minutes by the rain. When the game resumed in the sixth inning, Mario Hollands walked four straight batters. The Phillies loaded the bases in the eighth with no outs and failed to score. It was that kind of day in a season full of them.
The gruesome third inning encapsulated everything. Kendrick walked B.J. Upton, who has one of the lowest on-base percentages (.277) among regular players, to start the inning. He plunked Freddie Freeman with a 1-2 cutter that struck the batter's knee. A Kendrick sinker smacked Justin Upton on the elbow. That loaded the bases.
"I'm not sure what happened," Sandberg said.
"I was just trying to get too fine," Kendrick said.
Jason Heyward walked on four pitches - none of them close - to force home a run. Pitching coach Bob McClure visited Kendrick. Chris Johnson, who belted a two-run homer in the second inning, lined to right for the second out. There was light for Kendrick until he hung a 3-2 sinker to Tommy La Stella for a bases-clearing double.
"It's a tough tone that is set at the start of the game," Sandberg said. "It's an uphill climb."
There was one proud moment for Kendrick: A scoreless first lowered his first-inning ERA to 10.80.