WASHINGTON -- It’s one of baseball’s oldest truisms, that one about pitching and defense winning ballgames. And when the pitching and defense aren’t there … well, you know where we’re going with this one.
Kyle Kendrick’s once pinpoint command abandoned him for the second start in a row and the defense was less than stellar behind him in the Phillies’ 5-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday night (see Instant Replay).
The loss, in the first of 19 games against Washington this season, left the Phillies at 23-25. They have not been .500 since April 14.
Kendrick seemed like a good bet to give the Phils a fighter’s chance in this game. Even though he was coming off only his second poor start in nine outings this season, he has been one of the Phils’ most consistent pitchers since mid-August. But instead of rebounding from a difficult outing (eight hits, four runs, four walks in six innings in a loss to Cincinnati), Kendrick struggled again. He allowed 12 base runners in five innings and gave up all five of the Nationals’ runs.
Kendrick walked four on his way to 107 pitches. He has walked eight in his last two outings. To put that in perspective, he walked just two in his first three starts this month.
“I threw a lot of balls and got behind in the count,” Kendrick said. “It was another one of those nights where I was 2-0 and having to throw a lot of pitches. The last two starts, I haven’t been working ahead in the count. Not like I have been. But I’ll get out of it. I’ll get ahead next outing and try to get some early contact like I have in the past. The last two outings I haven’t done that.”
Kendrick walked three in the third inning and one turned into a run.
The Phillies took a 2-1 lead on Jordan Zimmermann on a sacrifice fly by Erik Kratz in the top of the fifth and had a chance to get more before Ben Revere grounded into a bases-loaded double play to end the frame (see story). Revere has hit into seven double plays so far this season.
The lead did not last long as the Nats scored four against Kendrick in the bottom of the inning. Kendrick hurt himself by getting behind in counts. He gave up a game-tying triple to Adam LaRoche off the center-field wall with one out on a 3-0 fastball. Four batters later, with two outs, he fell behind the No. 8 hitter, Steve Lombardozzi, and allowed a two-run double on a 2-0 fastball.
“He’s another guy I fell behind,” Kendrick said. “I left a pitch down the middle and he put a good swing on it.”
Lombardozzi’s double scored runners from first and second.
Upon further review, Kendrick said, “I should have pitched around [Lombardozzi] to get the pitcher out. But I had already walked four guys. I was tired of walking guys.”
Lombardozzi entered the night hitting .220. Manager Charlie Manuel said he did not want to walk Lombardozzi intentionally “because we felt we could get him out. We were trying to get him to chase.”
No errors were made in the inning, but that doesn’t mean the defense was good behind Kendrick.
LaRoche’s triple off the wall, though scorched, was actually catchable for the centerfielder Revere. If Revere had made the tough but makeable play, there would have been two outs. The next batter struck out. Later in the inning, third baseman Michael Young could not find the handle on a slow roller toward third. It went for a hit. If Young had handled the ball cleanly it could have been the third out before Lombardozzi would have batted.
Revere appeared to overrun LaRoche’s drive to the wall. Revere said the brisk wind was a factor. He said it caused him to play a couple of steps in. When he got to the wall, he said, the ball blew right to left.
“It tipped my glove,” Revere said. “Because I was playing a couple of steps in, the ball kind of got ahead me. It was a situation where you’ve got the wind and you’re trying to find your position at the wall. In normal conditions, I probably catch that ball.”
Kendrick fell to 4-3.
Zimmermann allowed just six hits and two runs over seven innings to improve to 8-2. He has allowed two or fewer runs in nine of his 10 starts.
“We’ll come back tomorrow, try to get the series even and win Sunday,” Revere said.