For the first time in what felt like ages, the Phillies got a strong pitching performance and some offense in the same game. Chase Utley went 4 for 5, falling a home run short of the cycle and Kyle Kendrick threw eight scoreless inning, allowing the Phillies to snap their six-game losing streak and beat the A's, 4-0.
The Phillies offense got going early, behind a new batting order. Jayson Werth started the game with a walk and Utley, hitting second for the first time this season, followed with a single. After Jimmy Rollins popped out, Werth and Utley executed a double steal and now-cleanup hitter Pat Burrell brought Werth home with a sacrifice fly to center. In the third inning, Utley doubled with two outs, setting up a Rollins would-be RBI single. But Ryan Sweeney made a perfect throw home and Kurt Suzuki applied the tag and foiled Utley's attempt to jar the ball loose with a head-first collision.
The lead was only 1-0, but tonight that would have been enough. Kendrick stymied the A's offense, putting together his best start of the season. Oakland failed to record a hit until the fifth inning, when Jack Hannahan hit a ground-rule double with one out.
By then, the Phillies had increased the lead to 3-0. Both runs came in the third inning, one coming off a Pedro Feliz triple and the other from a Chris Coste sac fly. Coste tacked on another RBI in the sixth inning on a single to center that scored Shane Victorino.
While the A's never really threatened, the Phillies missed a chance to blow the game open in the eighth inning. The Phillies loaded the bases with no outs against A's reliever Santiago Casilla. Eric Bruntlett (playing first base, as Howard DH'ed) hit a sharp grounder that was snagged by Bobby Crosby, who fired home for the force out. Werth then struck out looking and Utley followed with a line out, failing in his bid for a five hit game. It was a frustrating outcome, but, thanks to Kendrick, it is no more than a footnote.
Kendrick ran into a little trouble in the eighth, as the A's put runners on first and second with one out. However, he worked out of the jam, striking out Mark Ellis and getting Sweeney to ground out to the mound. That would be all for Kendrick, as J.C. Romero came in and threw a scoreless ninth, sealing the victory. The eight innings pitched marked a career-high for Kendrick, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Perhaps more encouraging than Kendrick's performance was Utley going 4 for 5. He had been mired in a well-documented slump, but seemed as locked in as ever tonight. The new batting order looked good as well. (For the record, tonight's batting order was Werth, Utley, Rollins, Burrell, Howard, Feliz, Victorino, Coste, Bruntlett.) Werth is a good fit for the lead-off spot, especially against left-handed pitchers, and this puts the Phillies' most dangerous hitters all in a row. It's only one game (and the offense didn't exactly dominate), but the new order appears to be an improvement on the old one. We'll see how it plays out in the long run, if Manuel sticks with it, or at least a slight variation.