Phillies drop series opener to Braves, 4-2

Ben Revere can't get a glove on the Braves' Justin Upton's pop-up. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)

THE LAST TIME they met the Braves, the Phillies scored 21 runs and allowed only eight over a three-game set to earn a crucial sweep at Turner Field.

Last night's series opener at Citizens Bank Park failed to follow suit.

Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman homered and drove in four runs, all in the first two innings, and the Philadelphia bats couldn't muster a comeback in a 4-2 loss. The defeat snapped the Phillies' four-game winning streak against the Braves, their longest such streak against the division foe since 2011-12.

The Phillies are now 7-32 when they score three runs or fewer. It was their fifth loss in seven games, following a five-game winning streak.

The Phillies (36-43) and Braves (41-38) continue their series with a day-night doubleheader today.

After surrendering four runs in the first two innings, Philadelphia righthander Kyle Kendrick (3-8) bounced back by throwing up zeros on the scoreboard in the six innings that followed. He set a career high in pitches thrown and tied his career high in strikeouts. First-inning struggles, however, continued to plague him.

Freeman's three-run homer in the game's opening frame marked the 14th, 15th and 16th first-inning earned runs Kendrick surrendered in his 16 starts this season. The Braves' lefthanded slugger drove a first-pitch cutter to centerfield to stake his team to an early 3-0 lead.

"It's hard to explain. He's worked on it," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's worked on doing a little up and down, simulating before he comes in as if it's further along in the game. He just seems to fall behind the hitters a little bit, try to be too perfect, for me, and resulting in some aggressive swings when he's behind in the count . . . After that, he seems to figure it out and a lot of times settle in."

In one of the game's lighter moments, Freeman's longball found a home in the glove of Phillies play-by-play broadcaster Tom McCarthy. The broadcast team last night conducted its telecast from the centerfield seats, just above the 409-foot marker at Citizens Bank Park, and McCarthy took advantage with a nice snag.

For those wondering, he did toss the ball back onto the field.

An inning later, and also on the first pitch of his at-bat, Freeman doubled to rightfield, scoring Simmons again and increasing Atlanta's lead to four. This was Freeman's second four-RBI game of the season.

The Phillies halved their deficit in the fourth inning. Ben Revere led off the frame with a standup triple and scored on a Jimmy Rollins' groundout. Chase Utley singled and later scored on a base hit from Marlon Byrd. Utley needs a pair of hits to reach 1,500 for his career.

Kendrick, meanwhile, recovered from the three-run first and turned in his longest outing of the season. The veteran lasted eight innings, of added importance, considering the Phillies used six relievers in Thursday's 14-inning affair and a doubleheader looms today. Kendrick surrendered nine hits, struck out eight and walked two on 123 pitches, surpassing his previous career of 117, set in 2011.

"We need Kyle to extend somewhat," Sandberg said before the game. "We do have guys available, but a good, quality longer outing would be right on cue from Kyle."

Atlanta starter Julio Teheran (7-5) continued to pitch well against the Phillies. The 23-year-old righthander allowed two runs, only one earned, on six hits in seven innings. He struck out nine, didn't walk a single batter and lowered his season ERA to 2.34.

Teheran entered the night 1-0 with a 0.53 ERA in two starts this season against the Phillies. After last night, he's allowed only two earned runs in 24 innings against Philadelphia in 2014.

"Not too many opportunities with less than two outs on the offensive side of things," Sandberg said. "A couple of innings with two men on, but one with one out, the other with two outs. Really just couldn't get the big hit off of Teheran."