There's no question Cole Hamels , Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have played significant roles in the Philadelphia Phillies ' second-half turnaround. They just haven't been quite as good as Kyle Kendrick .
Kendrick looks to continue his recent tear Saturday night when the visiting Phillies try to remain relevant in the NL playoff picture by handing the Houston Astros their 100th loss.
Philadelphia's vaunted pitching staff had a 4.23 ERA prior to the All-Star break - good for 22nd in the major leagues - but it's posted a 3.29 ERA that's the third-best in baseball over the past two months.
Lee and Hamels have lowered their ERAs in the second half and Halladay has won six of his past eight starts, but no one has made a recent transformation like Kendrick (9-10, 3.83 ERA). After going 2-8 with a 5.01 ERA in his first 15 starts, the right-hander is 5-1 with a 1.49 ERA in his past six.
Kendrick held Miami to one run and two hits in a 3-1 win Monday, a performance that left the Marlins impressed.
"He has to have a lot of confidence, obviously, in his pitches, in his ability to locate, to throw any pitch in any count," Miami third baseman Greg Dobbs told the Phillies' official website. "I think you're just seeing the development of a very talented pitcher."
Kendrick, who was born in Houston, is 0-2 with a 5.50 ERA in three starts against the Astros, none since 2010. This is his second start at Minute Maid Park.
He'll be happy for an offensive effort similar to what Philadelphia (73-72) gave Hamels on Friday. The Phillies scored four in the first inning and didn't look back, pounding out 16 hits in a 12-6 rout of the Astros (46-99).
Thanks to the Cardinals' loss in Los Angeles, Philadelphia is just three back of the NL's second wild card."We don't have too many (games) where we can kind of relax," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "At the same time, tonight, that was good for us. Getting some hits and scoring some runs was good for us."
While Philadelphia is fighting to stay in the playoff race, all that's left for the Astros is the inevitability of their second straight 100-loss season after not having any in the franchise's first 49 years of existence.
It might be tough to avoid that with Dallas Keuchel (1-7, 5.35) on the hill. The left-hander had a 1.35 ERA through his first three major league starts, but has posted a 6.93 ERA in his previous 10 outings.
Keuchel gave up one run against the Cubs in Monday's start. While he lasted only four innings, he was pleased to finally be feeling better after a lengthy sinus infection."This is the first time I felt good in about three starts, so I was happy about that," Keuchel said. "The two-seamer wasn't finishing. Maybe I was just kind of over amped because I felt good and got rid of the sinus infection."
This is Keuchel's first look at the Phillies, whose .238 average against lefties is among the majors' worst.
Switch-hitting Jimmy Rollins would certainly prefer to be facing a righty. He's 6 for 18 over his last four games with three homers, all from the left side. He's hitting .191 (17 for 89) without a homer against left-handers in his last 43 games.
|September 05, 2012||Placido Polanco||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 31, 2012||Raul Valdes||15-Day DL||Torn meniscus in right knee|
|August 29, 2012||Cole Hamels||Day-to-Day||Gastrointestinal illness|
|August 29, 2012||Vance Worley||15-Day DL||Loose bodies in right elbow|
|August 28, 2012||Domonic Brown||Day-to-Day||Left game - left knee soreness|
|August 24, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|September 07, 2012||Jose Altuve||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left abdominal|
|August 30, 2012||Marwin Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Torn ligament, left ankle|
|August 28, 2012||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - blister|
|August 22, 2012||Justin Maxwell||Day-to-Day||Bruised right index finger|
|August 07, 2012||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Left shoulder separation|
|August 07, 2012||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Left shoulder separation|
HOUSTON (AP) -- In the midst of a heated wild-card race, the Philadelphia Phillies know there's little room for error.
That made Saturday's shutout loss to the Houston Astros that much more frustrating.
Kyle Kendrick got knocked around in an uncharacteristically shaky start, and the Philadelphia offense was held to just seven hits in a 5-0 loss to the Astros that hurt the Phillies' chances at a wild-card spot.
"We can't afford to lose games," said Kendrick, who gave up four earned runs over five innings for the loss.
The Phillies were slowed in their surge for an NL playoff spot for the second time in three games by the worst team in the majors. Philadelphia entered the day three games behind St. Louis for the final wild-card spot. The Cardinals played the Dodgers later Saturday.
"Tonight was unreal," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We have to keep playing. We've got to play better. They outplayed us."
Dallas Keuchel pitched five-hit ball into the sixth inning to help the Astros avoid their 100th loss of the season.
"I don't normally pay attention to the wins and losses, but I looked before the game and saw that we had 99 losses," said Keuchel (2-7), who won for the first time since June 23 against Cleveland.
Kendrick (9-11) struggled early in what became his shortest outing in more than a month. He gave up the four runs on seven hits, including a two-run homer to Justin Maxwell .
The Phillies blew a 4-0 lead in Friday's 6-4 loss to Houston (47-99) to open the four-game series, a loss that snapped a seven-game winning streak.
"It's tough to lose to a team like this," said Kendrick, who lost for only the second time in eight starts.
Jose Altuve , Brett Wallace and J.D. Martinez added RBIs for the Astros, whose 34-23 record against Philadelphia since 2004 is tops in the NL.
Keuchel (2-7) lasted 5 1-3 innings, escaping bases-loaded jams in the first and fourth innings to frustrate the Phillies, who left 12 on base and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
"I'm real happy for Keuchel," Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "He battled out of a couple of tough jams, and I wanted to make sure the kid got a win when he came out. I'm real proud of him."
Four relievers combined to finish the seven-hitter.
Maxwell's two-run homer came with two outs in the first. It was Maxwell's 16th home run of the season. Altuve led off the inning with a single.
Altuve drove in Matt Dominguez in the second to make it 3-0 Astros. Wallace drove in a run with a ground-rule double in the fifth inning, and Martinez added an RBI single in the sixth off Philly reliever Josh Lindblom .
The Phillies loaded the bases in the first inning but failed to capitalize, with Ty Wigginton flying out to left to end the threat.
"He made pitches when he needed to," Kratz said of Keuchel.
In the fourth, Keuchel walked Dominic Brown with one out, then allowed Kratz a single. Kendrick moved the runners with a sacrifice bunt, and Keuchel walked Jimmy Rollins to load the bases.
But Keuchel got Kevin Frandsen 's bouncing comebacker and threw it to first for the third out.
"We missed some chances," Kendrick said. "But I can't say I did my job either, tonight."
NOTES: Manuel said he plans to start C Carlos Ruiz every other game beginning Sunday. Ruiz, who pinch-hit Saturday, continues to recover from plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which landed him in the DL last month. . Astros infielder Tyler Greene will start at 2B on Sunday as manager Tony DeFrancesco gives Altuve some much-needed rest. ... SS Jimmy Rollins stole two bases, giving him 29 for the season, including a major league-leading 12 steals of third base.