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.

Today's Lineup: Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi, Andrew Knapp all get starts

Today's Lineup: Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi, Andrew Knapp all get starts

Just mere hours after topping the Braves in dramatic fashion in the 10th inning, the Phillies will have a much different lineup take the field Sunday afternoon as they look for the sweep of Atlanta (see Sunday's game notes).

Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Andrew Knapp will all start Sunday's series finale.

Nava will bat fifth start in left field for the ailing Howie Kendrick, who's missed the last week with an oblique issue. Nava's sample size at the plate so far this season is small, but he's still 8 for 21 (.381 batting average) with two homers, two doubles and 7 RBI. So it makes sense that manager Pete Mackanin wants to get Nava some more at-bats.

Stassi bats sixth and gets the nod at first in place of Tommy Joseph, who had that odd sequence of events late in Saturday's win. First, Joseph had an ugly at-bat with the game tied in the ninth inning. Then in the top of the 10th, he caught a popped-up bunt and suddenly made an ill-advised throw to an empty third base, helping the Braves plate the go-ahead run. So today could be a day just to clear Joseph's head.

Both Nava and Stassi are left-handed bats against Braves righty starter Mike Foltynewicz.

Knapp will give Cameron Rupp the day-game-after-night-game breather behind the plate Sunday.

One note on Atlanta's lineup: Brandon Phillips, who drilled the game-tying homer off Edubray Ramos in the top of the ninth on Saturday, has been moved up to the second spot in the order for Sunday's finale.

Both teams' lineups can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Aaron Altherr RF
3. Odubel Herrera CF
4. Maikel Franco 3B
5. Daniel Nava LF
6. Brock Stassi 1B
7. Freddy Galvis SS
8. Andrew Knapp C
9. Zach Eflin SP

Braves
1. Ender Inciarte CF
2. Brandon Phillips 2B
3. Freddie Freeman 1B
4. Matt Kemp LF
5. Nick Markakis RF
6. Kurt Suzuki C
7. Jace Peterson 3B
8. Dansby Swanson SS
9. Mike Foltynewicz SP

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Phils aim for first sweep of the season

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Phils aim for first sweep of the season

Phillies (8-9) vs. Braves (6-11)
1:35 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies and Braves played quite the game Saturday night. 

The teams went back and forth in the final two innings, culminating in Maikel Franco's walk-off single. What do they have in store for Sunday? Zach Eflin will take the hill for the Phillies opposite Mike Foltynewicz, a matchup of developing right-handers in their 20s.

Here are five things to know for Sunday's game.

1. Eflin back to form
Promoted to the majors at the beginning of the week, Eflin looked back to form in his first MLB start of 2017.

Eflin had the unfortunate problem of needing to rehab two knee surgeries this offseason, but clearly has not lost much in terms of his stuff. He looked a lot like the Eflin who produced five quality starts in a stretch of six appearances last summer, not the one who gave up 20 runs in his last 13 innings.

While he threw just five innings against the Mets, he limited New York to just two runs while working around six baserunners. Both runs came in the first inning and he retired 13 of his last 15 batters faced. 

The 23-year-old righty lives off his low-90s fastball and sinker while mixing in a slider and curveball. He was sinker heavy in his first start of 2017 and it was effective at Citi Field.

One of his best starts last season came against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Eflin needed just 92 pitches to throw a six-hit complete game with just one earned run allowed, a solo homer by Ender Inciarte. He didn't walk any Braves batters and struck out six in a quick game (2:08 in duration). Atlanta slugger Freddie Freeman went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and no batter got more than one hit.

2. Foltynewicz vs. the Phils
Foltynewicz hasn't had an ideal start to the season. His first start came in inclement weather vs. the Pirates, then he had to come out of the bullpen with a series of off days, which allowed the Braves to skip their fifth starter.

His most recent appearance came back in the rotation on Tuesday and he held his own against the Nationals, who were without a few key veterans but still had Max Scherzer on the hill. Foltynewicz held the Nats the just two runs over seven innings, scattering nine baserunners while striking out three batters. He walked four batters and has a paltry 8/7 K-BB ratio this year. 

In his three seasons with the Braves, the 25-year-old righty has a sub-optimal 4.85 ERA over 222 2/3 innings. However, his ERA got much better from 2015 to 16 (5.71 to 4.31) and his 4.26 ERA thus far in 2017 isn't half bad. 

Foltynewicz lives off his mid-90s fastball that has touched 97 this season. He mixes in a slider that draws a lot of groundballs, a sinker and a changeup. His velocity is down a little this season, which could explain his poor strikeout rate.

Folynewicz is 2-1 in four appearances against the Phillies in his career but has a 6.00 ERA, allowing five homers and 12 runs in 18 innings. Franco and Tommy Joseph each have one of those home runs while Odubel Herrera has three hits off the right-hander.

3. Ryan Howard: Braves minor leaguer
Believe it or not, Ryan Howard could be playing for another NL East team this year. The former Phillies slugger made his debut Saturday night for the Gwinnett Braves, Atlanta's Triple-A affiliate. 

Howard had himself quite a night, going 2 for 2 with two singles, an RBI, a hit-by-pitch and a walk, which was intentional. For someone signed so recently to a minor-league pact, it was an encouraging showing, although it's unlikely he'll be called up anytime soon.

There are two major obstacles to Howard making it back to the show with the Braves. The first is Freddie Freeman. With Freeman, the Braves already have a lefty slugger at first base for the foreseeable future. The other issue is Howard isn't on the Braves' 40-man roster. Atlanta has little incentive to add Howard to its 40-man because they're in full rebuild mode and need to prioritize their prospects.

Still, there may be something left in the tank for Howard. He still hit 20 home runs last season and was quite effective in the second half, particularly as a platoon bat. Even if the Braves ultimately don't need Howard, his opportunity in Gwinnett is a chance to audition for other teams as well. Veterans on minor-league deals often have opt-outs or could be granted their release if another team shows interest. 

If you're curious, Howard doesn't play Lehigh Valley, the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, until July 17-19 and doesn't play in Lehigh Valley until a week later.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Freddy Galvis struck out twice on Saturday, but he also extended his hitting streak to six games with a double. It was just his second extra-base hit since April 7.

Braves: Freddie Freeman has raised his average to .400 on the season. His .400/.507/.850 batting line won't last, but he looks to have brought his game to another level this year.

5. This and that
• The Phillies are on a three-game winning streak, including two straight over the Braves. Despite finishing ahead of Atlanta in the standings in 2016, the Phillies lost their last seven games vs. the Braves last season.

• The Phils have won two extra-inning games in the last five days. They haven't done that since April 17 and 20 of last season.

• Aaron Altherr has a six-game hitting streak going and has raised his average to .379. He has doubled in consecutive games and has two hits in three straight games. For good measure, he's added stolen bases in two of Phillies' last three games.