Poor control by Kendrick, shaky defense doom Phillies

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Poor control by Kendrick, shaky defense doom Phillies

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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.

Best of MLB: Royals storm back in 9th inning for win over Blue Jays

Best of MLB: Royals storm back in 9th inning for win over Blue Jays

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Whit Merrifield hit a two-run, two-out double that capped a four-run rally in the ninth inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 on Friday night to reach .500 for the first time since April.

With their 10th win in 12 games, the Royals improved to 36-36. They were 6-6 before play on April 20, then went on a nine-game losing streak that night and dropped as low as 10-20, seven games out of first place. They trail AL Central-leading Cleveland by three games.

Toronto took a 2-1 lead into the ninth and extended it when Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak hit RBI singles off Joakim Soria (4-2) (see full recap).

Dodgers cruise past Rockies for 8th straight win
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig homered and left-hander Alex Wood kept his record perfect as the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the NL West rival Colorado Rockies 6-1 on Friday night for their eighth consecutive victory.

The Dodgers have won 14 of their last 15 games. They have scored at least six runs in seven consecutive games.

Wood (8-0) allowed one run in six innings. He gave up only three hits and walked two, retiring his last 10 batters.

The Dodgers have homered in 15 consecutive games, tied for fourth-longest streak in club history. The last time they managed it was in 1977. Their record is 24 consecutive games with a home run.

Rookie left-hander Kyle Freeman (8-4) allowed five runs and a career-high 10 hits and three walks in six innings (see full recap).

Torreyes hits walk-off single to lift Yanks over Rangers
NEW YORK -- Ronald Torreyes hit a game-winning single with two outs in the 10th inning after midnight, and the New York Yankees edged the Texas Rangers 2-1 on a rainy Friday night for just their second win in 10 games.

Brett Gardner lined a tying home run with one out in the New York ninth off closer Matt Bush. After Chasen Shreve (2-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 10th, Torreyes kept the Yankees atop the AL East.

Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka kept it scoreless into the late innings in the first major league meeting between the Japanese stars (see full recap).

Mark Leiter Jr. picks up 1st big-league win as Phillies cool off Diamondbacks

Mark Leiter Jr. picks up 1st big-league win as Phillies cool off Diamondbacks

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PHOENIX -- The clubhouse was beginning to clear and still the star of the game had not yet emerged from the shower.

"He's in there cleaning the guacamole and mayo out of his hair," Cameron Rupp said with a laugh.

Eventually Mark Leiter Jr. made it out of the shower and over to his locker where equipment man Phil Sheridan presented him with three game balls, souvenirs from not only his first big-league start but his first big-league win, as well.

"It's something I'll never forget," the 26-year-old right-hander from Toms River, N.J., said pitching six shutout innings to backbone the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

"I’ll be honest, I was probably more excited for this than I was for my major-league debut. To go out there and contribute to a win is what I was hoping to do."

Leiter, a 22nd-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2013, had never made it onto the 40-man roster until the Phils needed a reliever in mid-April and gave him a shot after he'd gotten off to a good start at Triple A. He spent six weeks in the majors and made 12 relief appearances before being sent back to Triple A the first weekend of June.

Leiter worked as a starter during his time back at Triple A. He pitched six shutout innings against Syracuse in his last start and got the call to come back up when Jerad Eickhoff went on the disabled list with a back strain earlier this week.

Leiter's return assignment was not easy: The Diamondbacks are one of the best hitting clubs in the majors and the best on their home turf. They entered the game scoring 6.48 runs per game at home and with an .886 OPS, both major-league bests.

None of that fazed Leiter.

"In my opinion, this is the big leagues and it doesn’t matter who the lineup is," he said. "They all have the ability to hit and hit well. They’re all big-leaguers and they've earned their right to be big-leaguers. I was just trying to pitch to the team you're facing that day."

Leiter trusted his low-90s fastball and commanded it well. He mixed in his secondary stuff and kept the D-backs off-balance with his splitter. He scattered three hits, walked one and struck out five. He showed no fear.

"Great performance," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He made it look easy. He made a lot of good hitters look bad with his split. For him to come up and do that to a real good hitting team was outstanding."

Leiter's dad, Mark Sr., pitched for the Phillies in 1997 and 1998. He made the trip in from New Jersey to watch his son's first big-league start.

"I guess they found him on TV," Leiter said. "That's what they were telling me. I'm sure he wasn't too pleased they found him because he was probably stressed out. But I think it was probably worth him coming out here. He's probably happy."

How could he not be?

Leiter's teammates were definitely happy.

They treated Leiter to a raucous postgame dousing that included as many different condiments as could be found in the clubhouse dining room. One laughing player had a bottle of ketchup in his hands. Another had a squeeze bottle of honey.

And then there was the guacamole and mayo that Rupp mentioned.

"In his first major-league start, to come up here and do that in what is known as a good hitters’ park - that proves Mark is pretty strong between the ears," Tommy Joseph said. "He's been one of those under-the-radar guys that people have doubted, but his mentality and ability to prepare are second to none."

Joseph played a big role in the win, smacking a two-run homer in the ninth inning to give the Phillies some breathing room. Maikel Franco also had a big home run and Freddy Galvis contributed an important triple that led to a Phillies' run in the first inning.

The Phils still have the worst record in the majors at 24-48, but they've won two in a row, both on the back of good starting pitching performances. Aaron Nola pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball on Thursday.

And Leiter delivered on Friday.

"It's good to see those back-to-back," Mackanin said.