Kyle Kendrick, Phillies fall flat against Nationals
WASHINGTON – Two weeks earlier, Kyle Kendrick sat in the visiting clubhouse at Citi Field and pondered both his odd 2013 season and the uncertainty of where he’d be in 2014.
"I want to be here," Kendrick said of a Phillies team he’s been with longer than any pitcher other than Cole Hamels. "I feel like I haven’t pitched horrible enough to be gone."
Kendrick, who has improved dramatically since being lampooned to the minor leagues in the spring of 2009, may have been the Phillies most consistent starting pitcher in the first two months of the 2013 season. But as he heads into his final offseason before becoming a free agent, Kendrick has been both inconsistent and unreliable.
Kendrick stormed off the mound and handed the ball to manager Ryne Sandberg before he could record the second out of the fifth inning in an eventual 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.
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"I just didn’t do my job tonight," Kendrick said. "I didn’t give us a chance to win and didn’t pitch deep into the game."
The early hook came after Kendrick allowed four straight batters to reach base with one out in the fifth. On the scoreboard, Kendrick had limited the collateral damage to two solo home runs and two run-scoring infield singles.
But Sandberg had seen enough from Kendrick, who had also allowed eight hits to his National League-leading total of 207 this season. He opted to play matchups, bringing in a left-hander, Cesar Jimenez, to face the left-handed hitting Adam LaRoche.
"It was more or less to try to minimize (the damage) with the lefty," Sandberg said.
"They did it to Roy (Halladay on Thursday) and he was winning," Kendrick said. "I wasn’t surprised. We were trying to win the game."
Just as Sandberg had to wedge his bets in the middle of the fifth on Friday, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will have to decide if Kendrick remains an ideal fit for his rotation in the coming months. Kendrick is in the final year of a two-year, $7.5 million deal; he’s arbitration-eligible this winter.
While Kendrick is as arguably as durable as any starting pitcher in the game – he’s never been on the disabled list in decade-long professional career – Amaro and Co. will have to weigh that durability with effectiveness.
Kendrick had a sparkling 3.22 ERA after his first 13 starts of the 2013 season. He allowed two runs or fewer in 11 of his first 16 starts.
But he’s taken an ugly turn in the season’s second half.
Kendrick has allowed four or more runs in nine of his last 14 starts. He has a 6.45 ERA in that span.
Kendrick has three more starts in 2013, or three tries to end his current pitching slump.
"You want to pitch good every outing," Kendrick said. "I’ll worry about my next outing and hopefully I’ll pitch better and we’ll go from there."
Since the All-Star break, Kendrick has a 6.91 ERA in 11 games.
Among the 65 National League pitchers who have pitched at least 40 innings since the All-Star break, Kendrick’s 6.91 ERA ranks 64th. Among the 133 major league pitchers who fit the same criteria, Kendrick ranks 131st.
"The second half of the season he hasn't had that two-seam fastball that has really good sinking action," Sandberg said. "That results in groundball outs or double-play opportunities. It seems to be a little bit of a flatter pitch right now. Tonight, on the flip side, it seemed like they were on top of his pitches and he wasn't catching a break. They weren't hit hard enough."
After Kendrick exited his most recent unimpressive start, Sandberg turned to the unlikely major league duo of Jimenez and Luis Garcia to finish the fifth inning. Jimenez struck out the only batter he faced; Garcia allowed a two-run infield single.
The hit, off the bat of Wilson Ramos, kicked off Garcia’s shoe and shot 25 feet into the air. Both of the base runners that crossed home plate had their runs charged to Kendrick’s ever-expanding ERA.
BROWN BACK: Domonic Brown was summoned off the bench to pinch hit in the ninth inning, ending a near-two week-long absence. Brown has been battling right Achilles’ soreness since the last week of August and hadn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 1.
Brown, who grounded into a game-ending double play, will continue to be evaluated day-to-day, according to Sandberg.
"He had a solid pregame," Sandberg said. "No complaints there. I watched him run real hard to first base. That all looked real good. That's just a passing of the test to get him back in the lineup."