ATLANTA -- Kyle Kendrick solved his first-inning problems and Ryan Howard homered again as the Phillies made it two straight wins over the Atlanta Braves with a 5-2 victory Tuesday night at Turner Field.
The win ensured the Phillies of being no more than five games out of first place in the NL East at day’s end. They are 31-38 on the season.
Starting pitching report
Kendrick (3-6) allowed two runs over seven innings and none of them came in the first inning. He had been tagged for 13 earned runs in the first inning over his first 13 starts and opposing batters were hitting .393 in the frame.
Kendrick opened this start with two three-pitch strikeouts. He allowed a two-out double in the first but pitched out of trouble.
Kendrick struck out six and walked just one. He is 8-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 22 career games (16 starts) against Atlanta.
Ervin Santana (5-4) gave up eight hits and four runs (three earned) over six innings. Half of the hits he allowed were for extra bases.
Santana beat the Phillies in April in Philadelphia. He pitched six innings of one-run ball in that game and struck out 11.
The Phillies’ bullpen continued to shine with Jake Diekman and Jonathan Papelbon combining on two scoreless innings. Papelbon picked up his 16th save one night after blowing the save in the Phillies’ 13-inning win. The bullpen allowed just one run in six innings in that game.
Papelbon needed just seven pitches for the save. He threw 28 in getting three outs the night before.
The Phils’ bullpen has a 2.53 ERA in the last 33 games. The bullpen’s ERA was 4.95 over the first 36 games of the season.
At the plate
Howard homered for the second straight night. This time, he gave the Phils a 2-0 lead with a two-run homer in the first inning. His 13th homer scored Jimmy Rollins, who had doubled to increase his hitting streak to 12 games.
Cesar Hernandez singled home Reid Brignac in the fourth. Brignac had two hits and he continues to give the Phillies’ offense a lift at third base.
Howard has 46 homers and 126 RBIs in 143 career games against the Braves.
Chase Utley, whose batting average has dropped from .347 to .301 in a month, got a rest. He was not in the starting lineup but walked as a pinch-hitter. “It’s just a day to catch up,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “His bat looks a little sluggish.”
Hernandez started at second base and played well.
Ben Revere banged his knee on the wall making a catch Monday night. That provided Sandberg with the opportunity to use John Mayberry Jr. in center field.
The Phillies signed lefty Matt Imhof, their second-round pick.
First-rounder Aaron Nola threw two innings (28 pitches) and allowed a hit while striking out two in an intrasquad game at the minor-league complex in Clearwater on Tuesday. He is expected to make his pro debut in the next two to three weeks for one of the Phillies’ clubs in Florida.
The series concludes with a 12:10 p.m. start Wednesday afternoon. Roberto Hernandez (2-5, 4.26) opposes Braves right-hander Aaron Harang (5-5, 3.20).