In their first close game of the year, the Phillies ultimately failed to catch up to the Washington Nationals tonight and dropped the game 6-5, though still managing to take the series. This was Kyle Kendrick's big opportunity to show that he deserved to be starting games, after the injury to Joe Blanton opened a rotation slot for him. No doubt he will get more chances, but he didn't exactly make the best of this one. Kendrick labored, going only four innings and allowing five earned runs. He struggled out of the gate, allowing a lead-off triple that led to three first inning runs, then gave up a two-run homer in the third.
A still-hot Phillies offense managed to keep pace and make up for the damage up to a point, and by the sixth inning the Phillies' persistence in getting men on base against Nationals rookie starter Craig Stammen, timely sacrifices, and the ability to take advantage of an error and a hit-batsman delivered to Ben Francisco meant that the Phillies had manufactured enough to runs to tie the score at 5-5. Ryan Howard was caught in a rundown between third and home in the fifth inning, though, and that wasted opportunity ended up being crucial.
Newly acquired long-reliever and potential spot-starter Nelson Figueroa came in to pitch in the sixth and in the seventh he allowed a run on a bloop double off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman. That was the tipping point. The Phillies couldn't score again despite threatening a couple of times, and Figueroa took the loss in his first game as a Phillie since 2001.
Good signs from the Phillie offense can be taken away from today's game, as the team battled back to tie after an early deficit and never stopped getting men on base. Jose Contreras looked fine in an inning of work, and Nelson Figueroa will have outings without the mistake or two that pegged him with the loss tonight. There were fewer hopeful signs for Kyle Kendrick and unless he improves significantly in his next appearance, fans will quickly be wishing for Joe Blanton to return and push him back to the bullpen.