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Phillies starters struggling to get their footing

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies lost their third game of the season Friday in their home opener at Citizens Bank Park. And each of the games has one common theme: The Phillies starter has lasted fewer than six innings.

In the 13-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals, manager Charlie Manuel went to the bullpen to replace Kyle Kendrick with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth. Royals left fielder Alex Gordon promptly tripled in the go-ahead runs off Jeremy Horst, and Kansas City romped from there.

Kendrick was charged with five runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. On Opening Night in Atlanta, Cole Hamels gave up five runs in five innings. In Game 2, Roy Halladay allowed five runs in 3 1/3.

It's early, but clearly, Philadelphia starters have to do better than that in order to keep their team in the game and to save the bullpen.

"Our [bullpen] guys are not geared right now to go three or four days in a row. So that becomes a problem," Manuel said.

Kendrick sailed through the first four innings, shutting out Kansas City on two hits. After retiring Jeff Francoeur leading off the fifth, six of the next 10 batters got hits off him.

"I think basically what happened is, when he went through the lineup, they started seeing him," Manuel said. "And they do have a good team and they've got enough left-handed hitters in there that if they get three or four at-bats off him, they've probably got a good chance to get some hits off him. And that's kind of what happened."

With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Kendrick had a chance to pitch out of trouble, but Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer came through with a two-run single to right that cut the Phillies' lead to 4-2.

"He put a pretty good swing on the ball," Kendrick said.

With two outs and a runner on first in the sixth, Kendrick once again seemed to be in control. But then Chris Getz doubled to put runners on second and third.

"Getz was a 1-2 changeup, and he put a good swing on it. The pitch was down. Maybe it wasn't down enough," Kendrick said.

At that point, Royals designated hitter Billy Butler came off the bench to pinch-hit for pitcher Bruce Chen, Manuel had Kendrick intentionally walk Butler and then brought in Horst.

His reasoning was that Butler is Kansas City's best hitter and that the left-handed Horst had the advantage against the left-handed-hitting Gordon. Except, it didn't turn out that way. Gordon tripled and then the Royals kept piling on in the later innings.

"They started hitting, and we couldn't stop them," Manuel said. "The game definitely got away from us."

Kendrick understood Manuel's decision, but he would have liked to challenge Butler or stay in to face Gordon.

"I guess he wanted lefty on lefty. So what am I going to do? I felt fine," Kendrick said. "I'd have liked to have faced Butler there, but what can you do? When [catcher Erik] Kratz came out, we just talked about what we were going to do with Butler. And then we walked him.

"I'm not going to knock Charlie's decision at all. I wanted to stay in the game. I'm a competitor, and I wanted to stay in. I was moving right along. I felt strong. But it's not my decision. I respect it, but any starter would want to stay in the game. We're all looking to go deep in games. That's our goal, our main goal, to give our team a chance to win. And if you can't do that, it's obviously frustrating.

"I felt better than my line was. I don't feel like I gave up five runs. With how I threw, I would have liked to have gotten the last out in the sixth. I thought my line was a lot better than it was. But it wasn't."

Kendrick noted that the season isn't even a week old yet.

"It's disappointing, obviously, to lose. Hopefully, we'll come out the next game and win," he said. "Obviously, you want to finish the inning. You want to be leading, you want to win the game. So yeah, it's frustrating.

"But I'm not worried at all. We just let one get away from us. But I wouldn't say worried. It's early. We obviously just have to play better."

A good start toward that goal would be a couple more good starts from the rotation.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for
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