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Phils can't back Kendrick, held to three hits by Niese

Philadelphia's season-long struggles vs. left-handed pitching continue

NEW YORK -- Ryne Sandberg discussed the importance of balance in the Phillies' lineup Tuesday afternoon at Citi Field.

The Phillies are loaded with left-handed hitters and could be loaded with more if rookie Cody Asche opens next year as the team's everyday third baseman. If everybody on the team returns as expected and Asche earns a job, the Opening Day lineup could include five left-handed hitters with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Asche.

The lack of a dominant right-handed bat or two is partially why the Phillies entered the night 12th in the National League in batting average (.232) and OPS (.675) against left-handed pitching. It is partially why Mets left-hander Jon Niese cruised to a 5-0 victory Tuesday.

"Our numbers all year against left-handed pitching are not impressive," Sandberg said. "That's something that needs to be addressed. For sure, [we need] right-handed bats. We have some left-handed hitters that can show some improvement there. As a team, we have struggled against left-handed pitching."

Sandberg loaded up on right-handed hitters against Niese, but they went just 3-for-19 against him. Phillies third baseman Michael Young picked up two of those hits.

He was the only Phillies player to reach second base.

"He was very good," Young said. "It seemed like he was getting ahead of everybody, staying out of the middle of the plate, changing speeds really well. We've seen him a couple times, but that was easily the best we've seen him. He was tough tonight."

There is no question the Phillies need to find a way to improve offensively. They entered the night 13th in the NL averaging 3.80 runs per game. And despite the team's 7-5 mark under Sandberg, who replaced Charlie Manuel as the interim manger Aug. 16, the offense has averaged just 3.5 runs per game in that span.

They managed just three hits against Niese to suffer their 13th shutout loss of the season, and third under Sandberg.

"We have to make good adjustments on that," Young said of the team's struggle against lefties. "I have to do the same thing. With lefties, it's a matter of trying not to do too much, making sure you use the whole field and swinging at strikes. If we do that, we're going to put ourselves in position to make good adjustments."

Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick tried, but couldn't keep the game close.

Kendrick started the season 7-4 with a 3.46 ERA in 16 starts through June 25. He had been the team's second-best starter to that point behind only Cliff Lee (9-2, 2.51 ERA). But since that splendid beginning, Kendrick is 3-7 with a 6.10 ERA in his last 11 starts.

He made a costly miscue in the third inning when he walked Niese, who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Daniel Murphy's single to right. Phillies right fielder John Mayberry Jr. could have had a play on Niese, but his throw was up the third-base line.

Kendrick appeared to have recovered until disaster struck in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff single to Andrew Brown and then Ike Davis hit a ground ball toward Phillies first baseman Kevin Frandsen, who thought he could make a play at second base. Frandsen might have had Brown, but the throw missed Jimmy Rollins and scooted into the outfield to put runners at second and third with nobody out.

"From my vantage point, it would have been close," Sandberg said. "But still, a good throw might have nipped him. It was wide. He did have a sure out at first base, but anytime you can get the lead runner and keep the double play, that's a good thing, too. It looked like an accurate throw gets the guy."

Three batters later, Travis d'Arnaud's sacrifice fly to center field scored Brown to make it 2-0. Kendrick then intentionally walked Omar Quintanilla to face Niese.

Niese has hit a combined .163 from 2010-13, which actually ranked him 27th out of 90 pitchers with 100 or more plate appearances in that span. Kendrick had the advantage, but Niese ripped a double to left-center field to clear the bases to make it 5-0.

"I mean, it was his night," Kendrick said. "On the walk, he took some good pitches in. On the hit, the same thing, he took some pitches in, and just got lucky. If he has a bat up there, he's swinging. It was just his night out there, I guess."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for
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