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: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes homered with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the New York Mets a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins in the first game of a pivotal series between National League playoff contenders Monday night.

Jose Reyes dashed home to score the tying run in the eighth on a dangerous collision at the plate, and the Mets pulled even with Miami for second place in the NL East. With its seventh victory in nine games, New York remained 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the league's second wild card.

It was an exhilarating win for the Mets, who appeared to be at a major disadvantage on the mound in the opener of a four-game set. New York was shut out for six innings by Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, but Mets starter Rafael Montero also put up zeros in his first major league start since April 2015 (see full recap).

Martinez's 13 K's, throwing error give Cards win
MILWAUKEE -- Stephen Piscotty scored on a throwing error in the ninth inning after Carlos Martinez struck out a career-high 13, leading the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 on Monday night.

With two on and nobody out in the ninth, Yadier Molina dropped down a bunt. Reliever Tyler Thornburg (5-5) threw to third base for a force out, but Jonathan Villar's throw to first was wild, allowing Piscotty to score.

After Martinez held Milwaukee to one run over six innings, the Brewers scored four runs in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead. St. Louis tied it in the eighth on a two-run homer by Randal Grichuk off Corey Knebel.

Seung Hwan Oh pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save. Miguel Socolovich (1-0) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up his first win.

Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong each hit solo home runs for the Cardinals (see full recap).

Royals keep rolling, take down Yankees
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dillon Gee kept the Royals' momentum going with six sharp innings, Alcides Escobar hit a three-run homer and Kansas City beat the New York Yankees 8-5 on Monday night to open their three-game set.

Gee (6-7) allowed only four hits and a run in the latest impressive start by the Royals' staff, helping the reigning World Series champions win for the 18th time in 22 games.

Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon drove in runs off Michael Pineda (6-11) during a five-hit salvo in the first inning. Pineda then retired 15 straight before getting into a two-on, no-outs jam in the seventh that led to Escobar's homer off reliever Blake Parker.

Starlin Castro drove in two runs for the Yankees, the second in a four-run eighth inning that forced Kansas City manager Ned Yost to summon fill-in closer Kelvin Herrera (see full recap).

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

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On the surface, this was not a very positive night at the ballpark for the Phillies. They had just four hits and lost, 4-0, to the Washington Nationals in front of the smallest crowd of the season – 16,056, announced – at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
But lest we forget, this is a rebuilding season and in a rebuilding season the final score isn’t always paramount. So on an otherwise dark Monday night there was a ray of light for the Phillies.
 
Jake Thompson had the kind of start those who traded for him a year ago and those who watched him pitch this season in Triple A said he was capable of having.
 
“It was great to see,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “That’s just what he needed. He needed a real positive outing. I think this will do wonders for him down the road.”
 
Thompson held the NL East-leading Nationals to two runs over seven innings, his longest of five outings in the majors.
 
“He looked like the pitcher that was advertised,” Mackanin said.
 
Thompson’s first four outings in the majors were poor. He was tagged for 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He walked 13 and struck out 13. Those results were starkly different than his last 11 starts in Triple A. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
After watching Thompson for four starts, pitching coach Bob McClure decided to suggest some delivery changes to the 22-year-old right-hander.
 
Players are often receptive to making adjustments when they are struggling. Thompson incorporated the changes McClure suggested and found success Monday night.
 
“We just tried to simplify his delivery so he could make better quality pitches,” McClure said.
 
In his old delivery, Thompson started off facing home plate. He pulled his arms over his head, turned and lifted his front leg before delivering the ball. McClure eliminated many of the moving parts. No more lifting the arms above the head. No more body turn. Thompson started his delivery with his body already turned, like a modified stretch. He simply lifted his leg, let his body go down the slope and fired. The new delivery slowed everything down for him. He looked poised, especially after the first couple of innings, and started attacking hitters with first-pitch strikes like a confident pitcher does.
 
Considering he only worked on the new delivery in two short bullpen sessions Saturday and Sunday in New York, Thompson was a pretty quick study.
 
“It was huge,” he said of the new delivery. “Just on the physical side of things, I’m in a better position to make pitches. I took away some moving parts to make it easier on myself.”
 
Thompson allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out three. All three strikeouts came in his final inning of work. He struck out leadoff man Trea Turner with two men on base with a slider to end the inning.
 
That’s another adjustment McClure made. He had Thompson stop throwing his curveball and focus on his fastball, slider, cutter and changeup.
 
Both of the runs that Thompson allowed came in the first inning on a solo homer by Jayson Werth and an RBI single by Anthony Rendon. After that, Thompson recorded six straight shutout innings. His teammates didn’t support him offensively. Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings. He is 3-0 and has allowed just two runs in 28 innings in four starts against the Phils this season.
 
Thompson needed a start like this for a couple of reasons. First, if he had been pounded again, Phillies officials might have had to consider taking him out of the rotation just so his confidence didn’t get ruined.
 
And second, with Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin out with injuries, the team needed to know something was going right for one of the young pitchers being groomed for the future. Vince Velasquez, another young arm, had three poor outings before pitching well in New York on Sunday.
 
“This will help his confidence a lot,” McClure said.
 
McClure then offered a little glimpse into Thompson’s competitive character.
 
“He seemed pissed that he wasn't pitching well,” McClure said. “But he wasn't deflated. We felt like we should keep starting him because he didn't seem beaten. He seems like a tough kid mentally. We felt like once he started making better quality pitches, he'd get better results.”
 
It happened Monday, a ray of light on an otherwise dark night.

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

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The Phillies were beaten, 4-0, by the Washington Nationals on Monday night, but wins and losses don’t matter as much as development in a rebuilding season, so there was a bright spot: Rookie right-hander Jake Thompson finally broke through with a good start in holding the Nats to two runs over seven innings.
 
The Phillies’ offense was not good. It produced just four hits on the night.
 
Washington got all the offense it needed when Jayson Werth, the second batter of the game, homered off Thompson in the first inning.

The Nats lead the NL East at 76-55. The Phils are 60-71.
 
The crowd of 16,056 was the smallest of the season at Citizens Bank Park.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson had struggled in four starts — 9.78 ERA — since arriving from Triple A and there were questions whether he’d even make this start. But he put together a nice outing. After giving up two runs in the first inning, he pitched six straight scoreless innings, finishing his outing with three strikeouts, the last of which came on his 111th pitch when he froze Trea Turner with a breaking ball with two men on base. Thompson allowed seven hits — four in the first three innings — and walked one.
 
Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings to improve to 14-7. He held the Phils to four hits and a walk and struck out five.

Roark is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA (two earned runs in 28 innings) in four starts against the Phillies this season. The Nats are 15-4 in his last 19 starts.

Bullpen report
Frank Herrmann gave up two runs in the ninth.
 
At the plate
Odubel Herrera had two of the Phillies’ four hits.
 
Werth’s homer in the top of the first was his 19th. Anthony Rendon drove in a run with a two-out single in that inning. Clint Robinson and Turner had RBI singles in the ninth to push the Nats’ lead to 4-0.
 
ICYMI
Herrera is staying in center field for the remainder of the season, Pete Mackanin said (see story).
 
Up next
The series continues on Tuesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87) pitches against Washington right-hander Max Scherzer (14-7, 2.92).