After two straight games in which the Phillies piled on runs late, abusing the Houston and Colorado bullpens, they got an earlier start tonight, going after starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez surrendered seven runs, all of them earned, in the first two innings, allowing the Phillies to coast to a 7-4 victory.
The Phillies loaded the bases with one out in the first for Greg Dobbs, who filled in for Pat Burrell in left (Burrell took the game off with a stiff neck). Dobbs singled to right, scoring Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, and then a throwing error by Yorvit Torrealba allowed Howard and Dobbs to advance to third and second, respectively. Howard was thrown out at home on a fielder's choice, but Pedro Feliz came through with a two-out double to left that scored Dobbs and Geoff Jenkins. After one inning, the Phillies led 4-0.
In the second, the Phillies built onto their lead even further. Chase Utley hit a two-out double to score Rollins, then Howard drove in Utley with a single. Then, after a Dobbs singled, Jenkins ripped a double to center field to bring Howard home. Feliz struck out to end the inning, but it was 7-0 after two.
That would be all the offense the Phillies provided, but it was more than enough as Kyle Kendrick put together his best start of the season. Kendrick went a career-high 7 1/3 innings, and allowed just two runs, earning his fourth win of the year in the process. The Phillies bullpen was less impressive. Tom Gordon gave up a two-run shot to Ryan Spilborghs after replacing Kendrick in the eighth that made it a 7-3 game.
In the ninth, Brad Lidge allowed a run on a walk and one hit, though it should be noted that the run scored when Willy Taveras came home from second on a Todd Helton single. Taveras had singled and then taken second on fielder's indifference. In other words, there's a good chance he would not have reached second base if it had been a closer game and the Phillies were remotely concerned about holding him on first base. In other words, there's no cause for concern about Lidge's second earned run of the season.
The bullpen "struggles" aside, this was a very encouraging performance by the Phillies. The offense gave them an early cushion and has continued its ridiculous surge (42 runs in three games), but more importantly Kendrick pitched an excellent game. He doesn't need to be this good every night for the Phillies to win, but if he can make quality starts with consistency, he should improve upon last year's ten-win total and will take some of the burden off Cole Hamels' shoulders.
The Phillies can complete the sweep tomorrow night when Adam Eaton faces Greg Reynolds. This match-up appears to favor the Rockies, but Eaton is coming off a strong outing against Houston (strong by his standards at least) where he allowed three runs in seven innings and was in a 1-1 duel until late in the game. He should have an easier time tomorrow, facing the injury-ravaged Rockies lineup rather than the powerful (and healthy) Astros. There's no way to know how the Phillies will fare against the 22 year-old Reynolds, who the Phillies have not seen before. They are 2-1 against rookie starters this year (defeating David Purcey and Max Scherzer and losing to Edwin Volquez) and the team's plate patience tends to play in their favor against pitchers they haven't seen before. Reynolds has more to worry about from the Phillies then they do from him.