Charlie Manuel trotted out a lineup that shouted spring training road game in the opener of Tuesdays doubleheader. The result was predictable. With the big boys on the bench for all or most of the game, the Phillies lost, 4-3, in 10 innings to the Washington Nationals. (See a game breakdown.)
It was the Phils third straight defeat since clinching the NL East title on Saturday night.
The Phillies are safely in the postseason for the fifth straight year and they have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs so the result of Tuesdays opener was basically irrelevant.
But thats not to say some issues didnt rear their head in the loss.
The lineup, whether dominated by regulars or reserves continues to be mired in a run-scoring slump. The Phils have been held to three or fewer runs in 11 of the last 12 games.
The more immediate concern after Tuesdays opener was the condition of rightfielder Hunter Pence.
He appeared to tweak something in his left leg while beating out an infield hit in the first inning. He stayed in the game until exiting for a pinch-runner after smacking a single in the sixth.
During his news conference after the first game, Manuel said Pence had some soreness in his left knee from sliding or something. But Manuel said he expected Pence to play the second game. However, when the lineup came out for the second game, Pence was not in it at the insistence of team trainers. It was the first start he has missed since joining the Phils on July 30.
Pence would not speak in specifics about the problem after the first game. He would not even say where he felt any discomfort. But after the second game, the team announced that Pence was suffering from patellar tendinitis. He willhave a precautionary MRI onWednesday.After the second game, Pence said he has had patellar tendinitis in the past. He usually can play through it. He does not believe it will be an issue. Still, he becomes another nicked-up player on a team that has dealt with a few of them this month. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are still rebounding after a groin injury and a concussion, respectively. Placido Polanco and Raul Ibanez are playing through groin injuries that required their having injections of anti-inflammatory medicine. Ryan Howard is still sidelined for a couple of more days with a sore left ankle that also required an injection.
Manuel would like to have his regulars ready to play for the final five games of the regular season that run starts Saturday in New York against the Mets. The Phils regular season-ending series next week in Atlanta figures to have a postseason feel as the Braves fight for a wild-card spot. That intensity could help the Phils heading into October.
It would be better if were going well heading into October, Manuel said. At the same time that doesnt mean we wont go well when the playoffs start. The adrenaline is different.
The Phils got a very nice start from Kyle Kendrick in the opener. He delivered six shutout innings. Its unclear what will happen with Kendrick the remainder of the regular season. He said he came out of the game after 79 pitches because he was told that he would probably pitch in relief over the weekend in New York, but there was also the possibility he could get another start, possibly Monday in Atlanta. A lot of that depends on whether the Phils plan to give Vance Worley a start next week or shift him to the bullpen to get acclimated to that role before the playoffs.
Kendricks status for the playoff roster is unclear. He has done a creditable job as a swingman on the staff, recording a 3.04 ERA in 32 games, 15 of which have been starts. If the Phils go with an 11-man staff, he is safe. If the Phils go with a 10-man staff a strong possibility with their innings-eating rotation it could come down to Kendrick or David Herndon for the final spot.
Just to be part of it would be great, Kendrick said. Well see what happens.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com.