After the Phillies bullpen blew a 2-0 lead Tuesday evening, which wasted a solid debut from A.J. Burnett and cost the Phillies a chance to go 2-0 to start the Phillies 2014 campaign, Kyle Kendrick took the bump for the Phils in the rubber match of the series Wednesday evening.
Kendrick seemed well on his way to giving the lead back to the Rangers in the bottom of the first, as leadoff hits from Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus, coupled with an erratic throw from Dom Brown (imagine that), gave the Rangers runners on second and third to start the inning. To his credit, Kendrick was able to get out of the jam by making some big pitches (including a strikeout of Prince Fielder), and catching Choo in a run-down after he hesitated in between third-base and home-plate.
The Phillies tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the third, when Ryan Howard followed up a Carlos Ruiz walk with his first homerun of the season to right-center field. While it wasn’t a moonshot from Howard, he got a mistake pitch from a left-handed pitcher, and he made the pitcher pay. That swing was certainly an encouraging sign from Howard.
From there, Kendrick settled in and pitched the way that we have come to expect him to in the early months of the season–excellently. After allowing two hits in the first inning, Kendrick pitched six more superb innings, allowing only three more hits, and one run, that came technically came courtesy of Leonys Martin driving in Mitch Moreland. (Perhaps if Ben Revere had taken a better route on Moreland’s triple, it would have turned out to be a single or a double, and Kendrick might have pitched seven shutout innings.)
After seven strong from Kendrick, Mario Hollands rebounded from a less-than-stellar MLB debut that saw him take a loss Tuesday night. Hollands downed Choo, Andrus, and Fielder in order in the eighth, to get the ball to Jonathan Papelbon. Hollands is young, but if he can get consistent control down, he has an electric fastball that could make him a valuable lefty out of the bullpen for a long time to come.
In the ninth, the once electric Papelbon stumbled in his first save appearance of the season. Adrian Beltre led off the inning with a single, that Mitch Moreland played off of with a double following an Alex Rios strikeout. Beltre scored on an infield single from pinch-hitter Jim Adduci, to put the game within one, and the wheels completely came off from there for Pap. Leonys Martin tied the game with an RBI single, and after Papelbon walked Donnie Murphy (as his attempts to take his head off failed), it pretty much seemed a give-in that the Phillies were going to lose the game. I’m just not sure I saw Papelbon walking Shin-Shoo Choo, and bringing the Rangers a series win, but hey, everything with Papelbon has to be strange right?
From here, the Phillies will get an off day tomorrow, followed by a weekend series at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs. Given that Ryne Sandberg spent his entire hall-of-fame career with the Cubs, it certainly should be an interesting weekend. It would be a lot more sentimentally interesting if the Phillies entered the series 2-1, rather than 1-2.