Kyle Kendrick did his best Cliff Lee impression on Wednesday, cruising through 7 2/3 dominant innings.
His brilliant effort set up Jonathan Papelbon to close out what would have been a three-game sweep of the Nationals and the Phillies grabbing sole possession of second place in the NL East.
Papelbon, however, uncharacteristically blew his second save in the last three games, leading to Ian Desmond’s game-deciding grand slam in the 11th inning as the Nationals (35-36) spoiled Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park with a 6-2 win over the Phillies (35-38).
With the bases loaded and one out in the 11th frame, Michael Stutes sure looked like he had Desmond struck out. Stutes’ 1-2 fastball was apparently high according to home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez. On the ensuing pitch, Desmond took advantage of Marquez’s call by belting a ballpark-emptying grand slam.
The loss marked the Phillies’ first defeat at Citizens Bank Park since June 1 and their first loss when leading after eight innings this season (28-0 before tonight).
Kendrick was at his best, pounding the strike zone and working ahead in counts. The righty threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of his 26 batters faced and retired 16 in a row at one juncture. He allowed just two hits in 92 pitches, struck out six and walked one.
Papelbon entered his third straight game and blew his second save in one series for the first time since June of 2010. A tough infield single led off Papelbon’s ninth, he then walked Adam LaRoche with two outs before Jayson Werth singled through third base and shortstop to knot the score.
The ex-Phillie did most of Washington’s damage this series before Desmond’s slam, knocking in four of the Nationals’ 12 runs.
The Phillies' offense can be blamed just as much as Papelbon and Stutes, the obvious culprits.
Michael Young stroked a high fastball from Gio Gonzalez for a two-run homer in the first inning to stake the Phillies to a 2-0 lead. But after Ben Revere’s leadoff single and Young’s blast, Gonzalez dissected the Phillies. The left-hander held the Phillies hitless the rest of the way, punching out 11 over seven innings. In fact, the Phillies went 0 for their next 28 after Young’s homer. Carlos Ruiz snapped the skid with a single in the 10th inning.
Charlie Manuel’s club did take two of three games from a division rival, but if you’re the Phillies, this loss stings.
Chase Utley on Wednesday night began his rehab assignment at Double A Reading and went 0 for 4 with three fly outs and a fielder’s choice. Utley played eight innings at second base and said his night "went really well," per CSNPhilly.com's John Finger. The Phillies' second baseman is expected back with the big-league team this weekend.
The Phillies welcome the Mets (27-41) to Citizens Bank Park for three games this weekend. Here are the probable pitching matchups:
Friday — Jeremy Hefner (1-6, 3.96) vs. Cole Hamels (2-10, 4.40).
Saturday — Dillon Gee (5-7, 4.56) vs. Jonathan Pettibone (3-3, 4.40).
Sunday — Matt Harvey (6-1, 2.16) vs. John Lannan (0-1, 5.49).