By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report/Philadelphia Sunday
PHILADELPHIA—Everything was going the Phillies way in the first four innings of their home opener against the Kansas City Royals.
Leftfielder Domonic Brown and catcher Erik Kratz hit homeruns and Ryan Howard had a couple of RBI singles. Starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick had four solid innings of work on the mound and the Phillies had a 4-0 lead.
From the fifth inning forward, it was a meltdown of biblical proportions for the Phils as the Royals scored at least two runs in every inning en route to a 13-4 win over the Phillies in front of an opening day crowd of 45,307 disappointed fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.
“We had a chance to win the game today,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “We just didn’t hold them. Things that we did didn’t come out right. They started hitting and we just couldn’t stop them.”
With the starting pitchers failing get beyond the sixth inning in three of the first four games, the front end of the Phillies bullpen has been equally as shaky if not downright awful.
“I think we have a chance to have a good bullpen. We have talent in our bullpen,” Manuel said. “Today they had a rough day. It just didn’t happen for us.”
Kendrick pitched well for the first four innings and didn’t allow a run while scattering two hits. He became undone in the fifth and sixth innings when he allowed five runs.
The real problem for Kendrick in his last two innings was getting the final out. Even in the innings when he was doing well that was a problem. In his first three innings, he got the first two outs, but allowed a hit before getting the last out.
With an opportunity to get out of two-out bases loaded jam in the fifth and sixth innings, Kendrick just could not find that last out. Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer got a two-run single bases loaded single that cut the Phillies lead to 4-2.
“Hosmer, on a 3-2 count, put a pretty good swing on the ball and got a base hit and scored a couple of runs,” Kendrick said.
In the sixth, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas singled. Kendrick got the next two outs on a fielder’s choice by Lorenzo Cain that forced Moustakas out at second and a flyout by rightfielder Jeff Francoeur. But then he allowed a double to second baseman Chris Getz and then intentionally walked pinch-hitter Billy Butler to load the bases.
At that point, Manuel pulled Kendrick and brought left handed reliever Jeremy Horst, who gave up a bases clearing triple to Royals outfielder Alex Gordon to give Kansas City a 5-4 lead they would never relinquish.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating because you want to obviously finish the inning,” Kendrick said. “You want to be leading. You want to win the game.”
What ensued after the sixth inning was a bullpen that gave up eight more runs. With Horst pitching in the seventh, three men for the Royals reached. Manuel replaced Horst with Chad Durbin who gave up a sacrifice fly to Cain that brought home Hosmer.
Getz then tripled to left past Brown, who tried to make a spectacular diving catch on a ball he should have kept in front of him. The ball wound up going to the wall and three more Royals scored to make the score 9-4 as the fans headed to the exits.
“It’s a play where you can’t let the ball get behind you,” Manuel said. “Once the ball got behind him, the game was just about over. (Brown) has to really try to keep the ball in front of him. Once you leave your feet and you don’t catch it, it goes to the wall and all the runs scored.”
Meanwhile, the Phillies offense went into a deep freeze after getting nine hits and four runs within the first three innings. After a single by third baseman Michael Young in the third, the Phillies did not get a hit for the rest of the game.
“I guess (Kansas City’s) bullpen was pretty effective,” Howard said. “When we get out, we just got to be able to finish teams off. We can’t let off the gas. I don’t want to say we let off the gas, but those guys came back swinging. Sometimes that happens in baseball. We just got beat today.”