The Ken Griffey Jr. show came to Citizen's Bank Park tonight, but it was another lefty slugger that made his mark. Chase Utley hit his 21st home run of the season, one of his three hits, and made a pair of superb diving catches. The last of those catches ended the game; a 5-4 Phillies win.
Fans were disappointed to learn that Griffey would not be in the lineup, getting the night off. But if they were looking for home runs, fans certainly got their money's worth. Utley crushed a line drive home run to right in the first inning, scoring Shane Victorino as well to give the Phillies an early 2-0 lead. It was Utley's seventh home run in the last eight games.
That score held until the fourth inning, when the Reds got on the board off a solo shot from rookie phenom Jay Bruce. It was Bruce's third of the season, in only his seventh Major League game. However, the Phillies built up their lead in the bottom of the fourth. Geoff Jenkins doubled to start the inning and Pedro Feliz destroyed a hanging curveball from the hand of Bronson Arroyo. Chris Coste homered in the next at-bat and the Phillies held a 5-1 lead after the back-to-back home runs.
Cincinnati cut into the lead with another solo home run, this time from Edwin Encarnacion, in the fifth, but beyond the two mistakes, Kyle Kendrick was cruising. Through five innings he only allowed three hits, two of them homers, and did not walk a batter. However, in the sixth inning he ran into some trouble.
Jerry Hairston and Bruce singled to put two on with one out and Charlie Manuel went to the bullpen, bringing in Chad Durbin. Durbin got Brandon Phillips to fly out, but Adam Dunn hit a double to deep center that drove in a pair and brought the Reds within one run. Durbin struck out Encarnacion to end the inning, but the score was now 5-4.
From that point on, both bullpens did their parts. The Phillies were unable to build on their lead against the Reds bullpen. Likewise, Durbin got through the seventh and Tom Gordon pitched a perfect eighth. Brad Lidge came on for the save and struck out the first two batters, bringing up Joey Votto with the game on the line. Votto hit a bullet up the middle, but Utley was just too good. He dove to his right and snared the line drive, ending the game.
It wasn't easy, but the Phillies took the first game of the four game series. Kendrick pitched a very solid game, though his four earned runs don't reflect it. Two of those runs scored with Durbin in the game and had Durbin not allowed the RBI double to Dunn, Kendrick would only have two runs to his name. Even so, Kendrick picked up his fifth win of the season and, despite sporting a 5.00 ERA, has the best winning percentage among Phillies starters.
It's hard to be overly impressed a five inning, four earned run start, but Kendrick managed to hold onto the lead despite facing a very potent offense with the wind blowing out of Citizen's Bank Park for most of the night. He did not walk a single batter, which is crucial to his success. Walks have been a bit of a problem for him this season. During his rookie year, he walked only 25 batters in 20 starts, whereas he had already walked 18 in 12 starts coming into tonight's game. After allowing 1.25 walks per game in 2007, he was up to 1.50 this year, which certainly impacted his rising ERA. However, he did a good job keeping the Reds off the basepaths tonight and he got a win to show for it.
On the offensive side, Utley certainly gets most of the credit after going 3 for 4 with a home run and 2 RBIs, but it was a well-rounded effort. Everyone but the pitchers and pinch runner/defensive replacement So Taguchi (who didn't get an at-bat) recorded a hit and the Phillies received two home runs from the 7 and 8 spots in the order. Victorino's first inning single extended his hitting streak to 14 games, tying a career-high. While the Phillies left thirteen men on base, it's hard to complain when they still put up five runs.
There won't be any complaining from Phillies fans tonight, even though they were denied the chance to see Griffey make history. Instead, they were treated to Utley, who put on a show from the first inning to the last out.