Apr 10, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (38) talks with Philadelphia Phillies catcher Erik Kratz (31) during game against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Mets, 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Kendrick Is Trying To Change My Heart; Phillies Beat Mets 7-3


Apr 10, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (38) pitches against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Mets, 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve always prided myself in being someone who isn’t so locked into a particular philosophy or narrative that I wouldn’t change my mind on an issue if compelling evidence was presented that would refute my earlier position.

Which means, if Kyle Kendrick continues to do what he did Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, I might stop hating him.

Kendrick waited out an almost-30 minute rain delay and gutted out six innings of two-run ball, allowing eight hits and two walks while striking out six, in the Phils’ 7-3 win over the Mets last night. With the win, the Phillies captured their first series victory of the season, and moved to within a game of .500 at 4-5.

Kendrick allowed solo homers to the red-hot John Buck as well as Lucas Duda, but danced in and out of trouble all night. He was aided greatly by a fantastic running catch in center by Ben Revere, who doubled the brain-dead Daniel Murphy off second base in the fifth inning, preventing the Mets from closing to within 5-3 at the time.

The Phils’ #4 starter did what #4 starters are supposed to do. He ate some innings, threw 106 pitches, and protected an early 5-0 first inning lead, given to him thanks to a Chase Utley two-run homer and a Dom Brown three-run blast.

Perhaps my dislike for Kendrick is irrational. For years, he was simply a long-man/substitute fifth starter on this team, a role for which he is perfectly suited. But now, as the #4 starter in the rotation, I simply don’t believe he has the repertoire to do the job.

Maybe I’m wrong. I’m willing to admit that’s possible. In fact, I really hope I am.

Looking back over the second half of last year, Kendrick has really reinvented himself, thanks to a new-found ability to get left-handers out.

Starting on July 6 last year, in his final 20 appearances, 13 of them starts, Kendrick posted a 2.64 ERA while holding opponents to a .215 batting average. Overall in 2012, he saw his strikeout rate improve to 6.6 K/9, a career-high. The two years previous, it was 4.2 and 4.6. In other words, Kendrick was striking out two more hitters per nine innings than during the previous two years.

Most impressive, though, was Kendrick’s new-found ability to get left-handed hitters out. Kyle learned to throw his change-up more effectively to lefties, essentially ditching the sinker altogether. That decision has paid off big-time.

Last year, Kendrick held left-handed hitters to a .238/.318/.383 slash line with just 8 HRs given up in 336 plate appearances. By comparison, Kendrick had allowed lefties to hit .293/.363/.488 for his career, and those numbers include last year’s improved totals.

So, maybe I need to start cutting Kendrick a little slack. The guy is pitching well, and has been since July of last year. He’s still going to have his share of stink bombs, and when he does, they’re going to be pretty bad.

But I remain seduceable. Kyle Kendrick, you may attempt to seduce me. I am willing to be wooed.

OK, it just got kinda weird, didn’t it?

Jordany Valdespin bugs me. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Where It All Went Right

When Revere doubled Murphy off second base in the fifth inning. The Mets had runners on second and third with one out when Ike Davis hit a fly ball to shallow left-center field that Revere made a nice running catch on. For some inane reason, Murphy had strayed way too far off second, perhaps expecting the ball to fall in for a hit. Revere stopped himself on the dead run and threw an off-balance strike to second to double-off Murphy BEFORE the runner on third could tag up and score.

That kept the lead at 5-2, and allowed the Phils to finally put the game away when Laynce Nix, (yes, THAT Laynce Nix) hit a two-run homer to ice the game an inning and a half later.

Hero

The aforementioned Kyle Kendrick, who gutted out six tough innings, literally dancing between the rain drops all night, even coming back out after a 27-minute rain delay, to pitch the fifth and sixth innings. It was exactly the type of performance the Phils would love to see from Roy Halladay, if he can ever get his stuff together.

Villain

This is going to two players this time. First, Mets catcher John Buck who, for the third time in three games, hit a home run against the Phillies. This guy is starting to turn into a real Rod Barajas, a man whose name has become a curse word in my house. My children are not allowed to say it. If they do, they get nothing but cottage cheese and a firm rebuke for dinner.

The other is Jordany Valdespin, the Mets lead-off hitter, who does nothing but bunt the ball all over the place and make unnecessary diving catches in center field, in a vain attempt to make us all think he’s awesome. Guess what Jordany? I DON’T think you’re awesome. I think you’re a smelly, no-good, rotten butt-munch.

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