Phillies Stay or Go: Kyle Kendrick

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Phillies Stay or Go: Kyle Kendrick

Over the next two weeks, we'll take a look at Phillies on the bubble -- players who may or not may not return in 2015 because of their contract situation or a desire by the team to move on.

Kyle Kendrick, starting pitcher

Age: 30

Contract: Kendrick will enter free agency for the first time.

2014 season
Kendrick won 10 games, marking the sixth season he has won double digits. In Phillies’ history, only Grover Cleveland Alexander, Steve Carlton, Curt Simmons and Cole Hamels have won at least 10 games in six different seasons.

But before a game of “which of these names doesn’t belong” begins, Kendrick’s second straight 10-13 record with a career-high 199 innings and 121 strikeouts wasn’t as good as it looked. That is, if a losing season with a 4.61 ERA can look good at all.

In 32 starts, Kendrick gave up 33 runs and 51 hits in the first inning — nearly twice as many as he allowed in the next highest inning. Hitters batted .357 and hit eight homers in the first inning off Kendrick, but hit just .258 with 17 homers in all of the other innings combined.

Kendrick was 42nd of 43 pitchers who qualified for the ERA title in the National League and 83rd out of 88 pitchers in the majors. Hitters batted .276 off Kendrick, which was 82nd of the 88 qualified pitchers.

Amazingly, Kendrick led the Phillies with 10 wins. He ended the season with a 2.78 ERA in September allowing just one run in three of his final five starts. And he's been durable, turning in 87 starts over the last three seasons.

Signature game of 2014
Kendrick saved his best effort for last. In his season finale on Sept. 24 in Miami, Kendrick held the Marlins to one run on six hits and no walks over seven innings. He also went 3 for 3 with a double and an RBI in the 2-1 win.

Kendrick started off September with a three-hitter over seven innings in a win against the Braves and reached seven innings while allowing two runs or fewer in six starts.

Stay or go?
Kendrick came up from Double A Reading as an emergency starter in June of 2007 and aside from a few stretches here and there, has been with the Phillies ever since. Indeed, Kendrick has a knack for survival and perseverance and certainly is a contributor to a major-league roster.

But it seems likely that Kendrick’s career will benefit from a change of scenery. Moreover, the Phillies need to test some unproven starting pitchers like Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and that will be easier to do with Kendrick out of the way.

There are plenty of teams in the big leagues that will need a No. 4 or 5 starter like Kendrick.

What they’re saying …
“After I was done in the seventh inning, I kind of soaked it in a little bit. I looked around. I’ve been with these guys a while, especially Jimmy [Rollins], Cole [Hamels], Chase [Utley], Ryan [Howard] Chooch [Ruiz]. It was a little emotional, I’m not going to lie. Change is never easy. If it happens, I’ll deal with it.”
- Kyle Kendrick, Sept. 25, 2014

“Going forward we’re going to need starting pitching next season. I wouldn’t totally eliminate [Kendrick] from the picture. He’s shown improvement the second half. He’s shown what he can do when he keeps the ball down and commands his pitches.”
- Ryne Sandberg, Sept. 25, 2014

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera moved down in the lineup again

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera moved down in the lineup again

After going 1 for 4 on Friday night, Odubel Herrera finds himself further down in the Phillies' lineup.

Herrera falls to seventh in the order while the Phils go for their third straight win facing the Diamondbacks at Chase Field Saturday night (10:10/TCN and CSNPhilly.com). The centerfielder has hit well over his last five games (8 for 22 with two doubles), but he's made multiple baserunning miscues that have hurt the team. 

This will be the second time Herrera has started batting seventh this season. He batted sixth in Friday's win. Andres Blanco moves up a spot to replace him in the six-hole while the rest of the lineup remains the same facing another lefty starter in Robbie Ray. Blanco was a late addition to last night's lineup after Howie Kendrick was scratched with hamstring tightness. 

Rookie Cameron Perkins leads off while Freddy Galvis, fresh off a 2-for-5 night, bats second. Cameron Rupp remains behind the plate for Ben Lively, who makes his fifth career start.

Here's the full lineup that will face Ray on Saturday:

1. Cameron Perkins, LF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Aaron Altherr, RF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Maikel Franco, 3B
6. Andres Blanco, 2B
7. Odubel Herrera, CF
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Ben Lively, P

And here's the Diamondbacks nine that will take on Lively: 

1. Gregor Blanco, CF
2. David Peralta, RF
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Jake Lamb, 3B
5. Chris Owings, SS
6. Brandon Drury, 2B
7. Daniel Descalso, LF
8. Chris Herrmann, C
9. Robbie Ray, P

For more on tonight's game, check out Steven Tydings' preview

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Nothing but quality from Ben Lively?

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Nothing but quality from Ben Lively?

Phillies (24-48) at Diamondbacks (46-28)
10:10 p.m. on TCN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies, believe it or not, bring a two-game winning streak into Saturday night. Seriously! Led by six strong innings from Mark Leiter Jr., the Phillies beat the Diamondbacks, 6-1, Friday, picking up their first win over the D-backs this season. Can Ben Lively make it three straight or will Robbie Ray turn out the lights on the Phillies offense?

Here are five things to know for late Saturday night:

1. High quality
In tonight's start, Lively has the opportunity to become the first Phillie since 1943 to begin his career with five quality starts. His first four starts have made him the most reliable starter in the Phils' rotation despite the team's 1-3 record in those appearances.

Better yet for Lively, he's coming off a strong start against these very same D-backs. It was a rocky beginning for the 25-year-old righty. He gave up two home runs within the first five batters he faced and ceded a 3-0 lead to his opposition. Plenty of pitchers — see the rest of the staff this season — would have folded after such a lackluster start. But Lively had some moxie in him. 

He gave up just four hits over his last five innings. He worked his way out of a third-and-first, no-out jam. And he finished his afternoon with a 1-2-3 inning. You would never have guessed watching the first inning that he'd actually leave in line for the win.

Lively also began to actually strike people out. That was his main bugaboo in his first few starts. With just 3.7 strikeouts per nine innings, one would predict he'd sport a higher ERA. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is 4.88, a run and a half higher than his 3.33 ERA. Maybe Chase Field will be his Waterloo, but Citizens Bank Park could have easily played a similar role.

A side-note, but Lively's nickname is Bee-bo. I don't know what we should do with that, but it is worth mentioning. I'm sure that will help explain his results tonight, good or bad.

2. Ray of Ks
While the Phillies offense has looked pedestrian at times this year, they got to the hottest pitcher in baseball Sunday. 

Ray came into Sunday with some downright filthy numbers over his previous five games: He was 5-0 with a 0.24 ERA, allowing just one run over 37 innings. He struck out 48 batters in that span and allowed just 24 baserunners, including just 14 hits. Batters hit just .115/.182/.164 against him. 

The Phils? Well, they broke out the bats and got to him on a hot afternoon at CBP. They produced 12 baserunners (eight hits, four walks) and four runs, smacking two solo homers against the 25-year-old lefty. He lasted just 5 1/3 innings, his shortest outing since May 14.

For the season, Ray is 7-3 with a 2.87 ERA and 114 Ks in 87 2/3 innings. It's a far cry from his 4.90 ERA last season, although his strikeout rate is about the same. He walks more batters than ever (four per nine innings) but limits hits at a career-best rate, bringing his WHIP down to 1.141. 

As for a repertoire, Ray works off his mid-90s fastball, turning to his mid-80s slider and low-80s curveball for offspeed offerings. All three pitches have been effective this season, but his offspeed stuff has been particularly strong. 

3. Torey Lovullo and a real contender
When the baseball season began back in April, it was tough to see the Diamondbacks as legitimate contenders. At 69-93 in 2016, the team was just one game better than the worst record in the National League and they didn't make many appreciable changes to the roster. 

The main changes came up top: Mike Hazen was hired as the team's new general manager and Torey Lovullo came aboard as manager. Whatever magic they've brought with them has made a big impact as the team is within a game of the Dodgers for the NL West crown. Even better, they lead the NL wild-card chase and are nine games clear of a playoff spot. Sure, it's only June 24, but that's a nice place to be. 

The managerial role can be overrated in baseball. The skipper can be handed the blame for a team that isn't performing even when it is mostly due to a roster that can't get it done. But Lovullo seems to have this team working well. He had received rave reviews when he filled in for John Farrell in 2015. His short stint made him a top candidate for the position and Hazen, also a Red Sox alum, was able to pluck him from Boston.

And things have fallen in line in the desert. Zack Greinke has bounced back to form along with the rest of the rotation. The bullpen has looked pretty good since Fernando Rodney snapped into form after April. And their lineup, as Corey detailed yesterday, is a force with which to be reckoned. Having those three factors working for them — together with some aggressive baserunning — and D-backs have a real contending chance this year.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: With his two-run shot in the ninth inning Friday, Tommy Joseph has hit home runs in back-to-back games for the second time this year (May 9-10 vs. the Mariners)

Diamondbacks: Shortstop Chris Owings has a nine-game hitting streak going after a single in the series opener. He had a home run off Lively on Sunday.

5. This and that
• This year is starting to look like last year, at least in how the Phillies are playing the D-backs. In 2016, they were swept at CBP before returning the favor at Chase Field. This year, a sweep at CBP before taking the first game in the desert. 

• As mentioned above, Arizona makes things happen on the basepaths. Going into this series, the team led baseball with 18.2 base running runs above average according to Fangraphs. The Phillies are 24th with -7.0 runs above average.

• Howie Kendrick, Maikel Franco and Aaron Altherr all have home runs off Ray in their careers. Kendrick is 5 for 22 with two walks against the lefty. Odubel Herrera is 4 for 9. 

• Lively allowed homers to Owings and Paul Goldschmidt on Sunday. Brandon Drury went 2 for 2 with a double.