Kyle Kendrick stepped out on the mound this afternoon making his first start of the season and his first appearance in over a month. After last night’s brutal loss to the New York Mets, KK was being looked to as one to stop the bleeding. Five innings and three runs allowed would have been fine from the savior from 2007.
The Mets did not know what they were in for.
Kendrick started off the game by striking out the side in the first inning. He would not strike out another hitter. Instead, he relied on his fielders to turn batted balls into outs and they did just that. It was a solid defensive performance all around, but particularly from the left side of the infield, Jimmy Rollins and Pedro Feliz.
Through seven innings, Kendrick had not yet allowed a run, and there was some speculation that Charlie Manuel would let him bat in the bottom half of the inning, given the problems the bullpen has caused lately. That held to be true. Kendrick did bat, and reached base on an infield single. In the eighth, Kendrick went back out and retired the first hitter he faced in Jeremy Reed. Five outs from a complete game shut-out.
Then, as it seems to happen lately, things fell apart yet again late in the game. Kendrick allowed a single up the middle to Angel Pagan, and very quickly got tagged by Anderson Hernandez, to quote broadcaster Chris Wheeler, “of all people.” Hernandez had only one home run on the season coming into the game. But two runs through seven and one-third innings is much better than anyone expected out of KK. He was pulled for a reliever and left to a standing ovation from the Citizens Bank crowd.
With J.A. Happ battling an oblique strain, Kendrick has emerged as, for better or worse, necessary back-up for the remaining 21 games. Should Happ’s injury knock him out for the rest of the season, Kendrick could make as many as four more starts and his performance today could be enough to assuage any fears about rotation depth, considering Jamie Moyer’s inconsistency as well.
Here’s a quick look at pitches that Mets hitters made contact with during Kendrick’s start today. This is from the catcher’s perspective.
He’s a bit too over the plate for my tastes and it’s not like he dominated a great offensive team — not to discount anything he did today. He threw 84 fastballs and 22 off-speed pitches (16 change-ups and 6 sliders), a ratio of about four fastballs per every five pitches. That’s just fine with a spot start as was done today, but for more sustained success, KK will need to introduce breaking pitches more often. Aaron Cook is the only qualified pitcher in the Majors who uses his fastball at least 80% of the time.
With the Marlins currently losing to the Nationals, the Phillies will likely have a six-game lead in the division going into tonight’s nightcap. If we imagine the Phillies dropping tonight’s game, they’d go to 81-61. And if we imagine the Phillies only playing .500 ball the rest of the way (10-10), that would put them at a 91-71 record. That means that the Marlins, who will drop to 76-67 with a loss today, would need to go 15-4 (.789) just to tie the Phillies. If the Phillies go 14-6 in their remaining 20, the Marlins would need to go 19-0 down the stretch.
I’m liking those odds.