Apr 26, 2013, 4:56 PM EDT
In 642 National League games so far, only 13 times has a starter limited eight hits or more of damage to just two runs or fewer. Kyle Kendrick owns two of those starts.
The only other pitcher with two such starts is Justin Verlander.
This year, Kendrick’s been one of baseball’s best at getting himself out of his own mess. The result? The Phillies second-best starter ERA (3.28), from their No. 4.
But how long does it last? Will it buckle tonight in Game 1 against the Mets?
Kendrick sidestepped trouble twice against New York earlier this month. He fanned back-to-back batters in the second inning to get out of a bases-loaded jam. Later in the fifth, he popped up Ike Davis for an inning-ending double play.
He had another two such instances in this past series finale against the Cardinals, one in the second inning, one in the sixth. On one, Kendrick forced leadoff man Jon Jay into a ground-out to strand men at second and third.
As for his other two starts: in one, he two-hit the Reds over seven scoreless. In the other, he got gotten once in the Phillies 13-4 home opening loss to the Royals, though he was robbed of a chance to redeem himself.
Despite the platoon advantage against Billy Butler with men on second and third and two outs in the sixth, Charlie Manuel opted to walk Butler to load the bases and pull Kendrick for Jeremy Horst.
The next batter, Alex Gordon, rocked a bases-clearing triple. Kendrick at the time had thrown only 84 pitches. If he gets the chance and gets Butler, Kendrick has a 2.52 ERA.
What’s most remarkable about it is how strong Kendrick’s fared after. Two of the three innings he tossed immediately following trouble went 1-2-3. (He didn’t appear following one of them.) Those two innings took eight and 10 pitches.
As for the other, Kendrick surrendered only a single.vOf course, sustainability is a serious question. Kendrick’s BABIP in high-leverage situations is… .091. With men in scoring position, it’s .222.
Part of his fortune is that he’s just so happened to face pitchers in two of five. Both were vs. the Cards’ Jake Westbrook (.121 career BA). One for the first of two Ks. The other, a bases-loaded ground out for out No. 3.
It also helped that on that Davis pop-up, David Murphy exhibited a Forrest Gump baseball IQ, and so for who knows what reason perpetrated this…thing. Also, Kendrick’s FB% with RISP is only 18.8% so far. It was 40.7% last year, and 36.1% in 2011.
What happened that one time he was had — Eric Hosmer rocketed a three-run shot for Kansas City in the fifth on April 5 with men on first and third — may soon be common. That may start tonight against the Mets, who took him deep twice and the Phillies five times in three games earlier this month.
Still, with Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee seemingly having turned a corner, and with Roy Halladay, um, trying less (?), the Phillies don’t need Kendrick to be an ace. They only him to be beat the other guys’ No. 4s.
Just know he’s unlikely to be Christian Bale in “The Prestige” much longer.
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