THERE CAME a point this season when Kyle Kendrick was through fielding questions on his first-inning woes, probably born out of the frustration that comes from simply being unable to come up with an answer.
He still doesn’t have one.
Kendrick didn’t record an out Friday night until the fifth hitter of the game, when he was already down by two runs. He would allow one more, too.
Kendrick has allowed first-inning runs in 14 of his 25 starts this season, and in 13 of 20 starts since the beginning of May. With another horrid start, Kendrick leapfrogged Edwin Jackson to reclaim the notoriety of having the highest first-inning ERA in baseball this season (9.69 ERA, 28 earned runs in 25 innings).
To Kendrick’s credit, however, the barrage of hard hits that greeted him in the first inning disappeared like the fans who used to fill the seats at Citizens Bank Park, save for a booming Matt Adams’ home run to begin the third inning.
After giving up four in his first three, Kendrick held the St. Louis Cardinals to a pair of singles in his next three innings, pitched in the seventh, and retired eight straight before turning the ball over to a trustworthy bullpen as the Phillies pulled off a 5-4 come-from-behind win in South Philly.
“Kyle hung in there and did a nice job of throwing early strikes,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “Working ahead made a big difference.”
“You just have to battle,” Kendrick said of bouncing back from the first inning to collect his sixth win of the season. “I don’t know if you guys know me that well yet, but I’m a competitor, I’m going to battle. I don’t want to lose. I had to keep battling, that’s all you can do.”
The Phillies’ offense got one of those aforementioned first-inning runs in the home half of the inning, via small ball: Ben Revere singled, moved to second on a Jimmy Rollins walk, to third on a Chase Utley fly ball and across the plate on a Ryan Howard ground-ball out.
In the third, after Kendrick served up the Adams’ home run to fall behind, 4-1, the Phillies batted around.
Kendrick ignited the rally, actually: The pitcher singled to right as the Phils jumped all over National League All-Star starter Adam Wainwright.
“It was big,” Kendrick said. “What’d we put up, four that inning? That won us the game.
Wainwright was tagged for five runs in six innings. He allowed four hits and two walks in the third inning alone.
Wainwright entered the night tied for the major league lead in wins (15) and fifth in ERA (2.40). He exited with a 5.13 ERA in five starts this month.
This was only the third time in Wainwright’s career that he had a three-run lead, only to end up getting stuck with a loss.
“It looked like he wasn’t quite on his game, the sharpness,” Sandberg said. “It looked like a bit of a tight zone for the pitchers early on. He was just a little bit off with his command.”
Wainwright was outpitched by Kendrick and beaten by a Phillies offense that had scored two runs or fewer in 49 of 127 games in 2014 entering the day. Funny game.
“It’s a big win, a nice win against one of the best pitchers in the league,” Kendrick said.
Grady Sizemore made a brief appearance in the home clubhouse during the allotted time for media access. It was almost the most anyone had seen him in the last week.
Sizemore was out of the starting lineup Friday night for the fourth straight game. He has started only one game since Aug. 13.
When asked whether he was hurting, the oft-injured Sizemore said he was healthy. So then what’s the deal?
“He’s fine,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “I’ll try and pick some spots. He’s gotten some pinch-hit opportunities, but I’ll try to get a spot for him as far as getting four at-bats.”
Sizemore, the 32-year-old former three-time All-Star who missed the last two seasons with injuries, has hit .301 with a .339 OBP and 10 extra-base hits in 33 games (23 starts) with the Phillies.
But with Ben Revere in a groove at the plate and the team still trying to figure out what it has in Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown, Sizemore’s playing time has nearly disappeared.
But Sandberg said that doesn’t rule out Sizemore being in the team’s plans beyond 2014.
“I think seeing what he’s done, we have a pretty good idea of what he can do,” Sandberg said. “He really gives a professional at-bat, even in a pinch-hit. His ability to drive the ball to the opposite-field gap and in the gaps, he’s showing some good things. I think he would be considered for next year.
“It’s important also to see what the other guys, with these games, how they can fit in for next year. But he’s showing his professionalism. It looks like he can get a little bit more flexible with his running and gain some, whatever it might be, with his running part of his game on an everyday type of a basis.”
Ben Revere went 3-for-4, raising his season average to .315. Revere entered the night trailing only Colorado’s Justin Morneau (.317) in the National League batting race. Revere has had multiple hits in 25 of his last 49 games, and in 10 of 19 games in August ... John Mayberry Jr. (left wrist) hit a three-run home run for Triple A Lehigh Valley in his third rehab game. Before the Phillies game, Ryne Sandberg said the team will exercise caution with the extra outfielder, wanting to “make sure he’s right and strong so it doesn’t reoccur.” The team could wait to activate him on Sept. 1, when rosters expand ... The Phillies are looking to win back-to-back series for the first time since April, when they took three of four from the Dodgers in Los Angeles before taking two of three at Arizona.
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21