OK, so there’s some weird stuff going on.
First, the Phillies beat the Marlins 3-1 on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, extending their season-long winning streak to five games.
Second, the Cardinals and Pirates both lost on Monday night, pulling the Phillies (and Brewers) to within five games of the second wild card with 21 games remaining.
Third, Kyle Kendrick once again dazzled, pitching seven innings and giving up just two hits and one earned run with eight strikeouts, lowering his ERA on the season to 3.83.
In other words, what in all that is good and holy is going on here?
Kendrick’s late-season run of excellence has seemingly come out of nowhere and the numbers are staggering. In his last eight starts, Kendrick has posted a 2.56 ERA (49.2 IP, 14 ER). His ERA is once again lower than Roy Halladay’s (3.87 to 3.83). And according to Kendrick, it all has to do with his changeup, which he says he is throwing more often and with more confidence.
“I never wanted to throw it,” Kendrick said after the game. “But tonight it was my out pitch.”
And he was getting a lot of outs early, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Suddenly, Kendrick is the hottest pitcher on a staff that consists of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels.
Allow that to sink in for a moment and be very afraid about what else might happen in the universe.
Not only did Kendrick continue his recent run of excellence last night, the young-gun bullpen also maintained its recent string of dominance. With Jonathan Papelbon getting the night off after pitching both games of Sunday’s doubleheader (you know, as The Highest Paid Closer In The Game, he really should be able to pitch anytime we want… nay… demand), it was up to Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, and Antonio Bastardo to lock down the final six outs.
All three pitchers did so, and in impressive fashion.
Bastardo’s outing was particularly impressive. The young lefty recorded his first save since last year, recording two strikeouts in the ninth to wrap things up. The collection of young arms currently assembled in the bullpen is largely responsible for this September run by the Phils, led by De Fratus, Phillipe Aumont, Jeremy Horst, B.J. Rosenberg, and Bastardo.
Offensively, the Phils were listless for most of the game, banging out only five hits. But the big blow belonged to Domonic Brown, who jacked a two-run homer to right field in the bottom of the fifth off left-hander Wade LeBlanc. It was a good sign from Brown, who has really struggled to turn on balls and pull them with power. It was only Brown’s second homer since rejoining the team, and the young left-hander is still slugging just .368.
Still, last night’s win over the Marlins, coupled with losses by St. Louis and Pittsburgh, now has Phils fans, players and coaches all thinking playoffs once again. And according to CoolStandings.com (which plays out the remainder of the season one million times on a computer to calculate the odds a team will make the playoffs given their current scenario) now gives the Phillies a 1.5% chance of reaching the postseason. Yesterday that number was just 0.7%.
I know, I know. I can hardly breathe too. It’s not just you.
Where It All Went Right
When Dom Brown hit his two-run homer. It was looking like one of those games where the Phils were going to squander a great pitching performance by a starter, but Brown’s homer gave the Phils all the runs they would need.
Most Attractive Play
This tight double play turned by the Phillies in the ninth. With Giancarlo Stanton bearing down on Chase Utley, The Man received the throw from third baseman Michael Martinez and made a brutally tough pivot look easy, completing the double play off the bat of Carlos Lee, allowing Bastardo to breathe a little easier while locking down his first save of the season.
Kyle Kendrick, who really seems to have found something with his changeup. He’s all but abandoned his cutter, and is throwing his sinker a whole lot less often. Finally, Kendrick is able to get left-handed hitters out, and that’s made all the difference for him over the last month and a half.
Rob Brantley, the jerk who ruined Kyle Kendrick’s no-hitter by singling off him to lead off the sixth inning. When I can find his address and telephone number, I’ll let you all know.