Kyle Kendrick's Escape Act Isn't Likely To Continue

Kyle Kendrick's Escape Act Isn't Likely To Continue

In 642 National League games so far, only 13 times has a starter limited eight hits or more of damage to just two runs or fewer. Kyle Kendrick owns two of those starts.

The only other pitcher with two such starts is Justin Verlander.

This year, Kendrick's been one of baseball's best at getting himself out of his own mess. The result? The Phillies second-best starter ERA (3.28), from their No. 4.

But how long does it last? Will it buckle tonight in Game 1 against the Mets?

Kendrick sidestepped trouble twice against New York earlier this month. He fanned back-to-back batters in the second inning to get out of a bases-loaded jam. Later in the fifth, he popped up Ike Davis for an inning-ending double play.

He had another two such instances in this past series finale against the Cardinals, one in the second inning, one in the sixth. On one, Kendrick forced leadoff man Jon Jay into a ground-out to strand men at second and third.

As for his other two starts: in one, he two-hit the Reds over seven scoreless. In the other, he got gotten once in the Phillies 13-4 home opening loss to the Royals, though he was robbed of a chance to redeem himself.

Despite the platoon advantage against Billy Butler with men on second and third and two outs in the sixth, Charlie Manuel opted to walk Butler to load the bases and pull Kendrick for Jeremy Horst.

The next batter, Alex Gordon, rocked a bases-clearing triple. Kendrick at the time had thrown only 84 pitches. If he gets the chance and gets Butler, Kendrick has a 2.52 ERA.

What's most remarkable about it is how strong Kendrick's fared after. Two of the three innings he tossed immediately following trouble went 1-2-3. (He didn't appear following one of them.) Those two innings took eight and 10 pitches.

As for the other, Kendrick surrendered only a single.vOf course, sustainability is a serious question. Kendrick's BABIP in high-leverage situations is... .091. With men in scoring position, it's .222.

Part of his fortune is that he's just so happened to face pitchers in two of five. Both were vs. the Cards' Jake Westbrook (.121 career BA). One for the first of two Ks. The other, a bases-loaded ground out for out No. 3.

It also helped that on that Davis pop-up, David Murphy exhibited a Forrest Gump baseball IQ, and so for who knows what reason perpetrated this...thing. Also, Kendrick's FB% with RISP is only 18.8% so far. It was 40.7% last year, and 36.1% in 2011.

What happened that one time he was had -- Eric Hosmer rocketed a three-run shot for Kansas City in the fifth on April 5 with men on first and third -- may soon be common. That may start tonight against the Mets, who took him deep twice and the Phillies five times in three games earlier this month.

Still, with Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee seemingly having turned a corner, and with Roy Halladay, um, trying less (?), the Phillies don't need Kendrick to be an ace. They only him to be beat the other guys' No. 4s.

Just know he's unlikely to be Christian Bale in "The Prestige" much longer.

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake continues to rack up the accolades.

A couple of weeks after being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the rising Philadelphia Union star was named to the MLS Best XI team as one of the league’s top players in 2016.

The rest of the team included:

• Forwards Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
• Midfielders Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas) and Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
• Defenders Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids) and Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Blake’s inclusion on the Best XI is not a surprise considering he already took home top goalkeeper honors. Even though he didn’t have the best numbers in the league, he made the spectacular look ordinary in his first full season as an MLS starter.

But it is unique for the Union, who haven’t had a player make the Best XI since Sebastien Le Toux was included for his 14-goal, 11-assist effort in Philly's 2010 expansion season.

Union winger Chris Pontius, who recently won the 2016 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award, made Best XI while with D.C. United in 2012. Former Union players to be honored on the prestigious list were Bakary Soumare with Chicago in 2008 and Justin Mapp with Chicago in 2006.

Another big honor like this will likely only increase the chatter that Blake could be sold to a big team in Europe soon. But a couple of weeks ago, the Union goalkeeper insisted his only focus for 2017 is on Philadelphia.

“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” he said at the time. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first [MLS] Cup.”

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”