Monday, September 14, 2009

Martinez, Kendrick shut down Mets in sweep

Pedro Martinez, the 37-year-old thought by many to be finished, befuddled the Mets for eight innings in a 1-0 win last night.

Kyle Kendrick, resurrected from the minor leagues, was almost as effective in a 5-4 win yesterday afternoon. The sweep, along with Florida's loss, pushed the Phillies' lead in the NL East to 61/2 games.

Meanwhile, the intrigue surrounding the closer's role continued. Ryan Madson overcame weariness and saved the win for Martinez after allowing a one-out single.

In the first game, Brad Lidge sent heart palpitations through the crowd, allowing two runs. Nonetheless, he got the save. Lidge and Madson have combined for 16 blown saves.

Providing further evidence that he's no longer an also-ran, Martinez threw 130 pitches, the most by a Phillies starter this season, and improved his record to 5-0. The Phillies are 7-0 when he starts.

"I feel like 1998, 1999, 2000, because I'm bouncing back pretty good," the three-time Cy Young Award winner and future Hall of Famer said after beating his former team for the second time as a Phillie. "The other day when I threw 119 pitches, I felt so good I was a little surprised, to be honest. I wasn't sore. Nothing to complain about. Whatever amount of pitches I threw [last night], I feel fine. I don't know how I'll feel" today.

At his best since the Phillies signed him July 15, Martinez escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the second; a leadoff double by David Wright in the sixth; and a two-on, two-out situation in the seventh.

In the eighth inning, after Daniel Murphy ripped a two-out double to right, it appeared Martinez was going to be lifted when manager Charlie Manuel ambled to the mound. But Martinez remained in the game to a huge ovation, and the inning ended when catcher Carlos Ruiz threw out Murphy at third with a laser to Pedro Feliz. Murphy tried to advance after Ruiz blocked a pitch in the dirt.

Martinez said he had thought Manuel was going to pull him.

"I didn't like it, but Chase [Utley] said, 'He might not get you. He might not get you,' " said Martinez, whose ERA dropped to 2.87. Utley "asked me if I wanted the guy, and I said, 'Yeah, I want him.' Charlie asked me the same thing. So I convinced him to give me one more out."

The throw by Ruiz saved Martinez the trouble of facing Jeremy Reed.

Martinez had to be as sharp as he was because the Phillies managed only three hits, and none after their first batter of the second inning. Their run came in the first when a double by Utley scored Jimmy Rollins.

In the afternoon game, Kendrick showed his time this season at triple-A Lehigh Valley had been well-spent.

He went 71/3 innings and held the Mets to two runs before leaving to a standing ovation from the partisans who booed him last year after it became obvious that he could no longer succeed as a one-trick pony.

"It felt good," the 25-year-old Kendrick said of the crowd's reaction. "The fans were a little hard on me when I was dealing with last year's struggles, but today was pretty special."

In the previous two seasons, Kendrick won 21 games, but he faded badly in the second half of last season and was not part of the Phillies' postseason run. Hitters caught up to his sinker, and the club told him that he had to develop secondary pitches if he hoped to get back to the big leagues.

The low point, Kendrick recalled, came in the fall when he was sitting alone in a hotel room in Clearwater, Fla., banished to the Instructional League, watching the Phillies celebrate their NL division series win over Milwaukee.

It ate away at the righthander that he wasn't part of that joyous clubhouse scene.

"I wanted to be here so bad, especially in L.A., and then we went on to win the World Series and I was still down there" in Clearwater, he said. "That's when I knew I've got to do something. I knew I needed to better my change-up, better my cutter, and once I put my mind to it . . ."

Kendrick also came back with a more mature approach to his craft.

"I think I've done a little growing, you know, mentally," he said. "I think I've done a lot better not letting things worry me."

Backed by a 4-0 lead, Kendrick took a shutout into the eighth inning. But with one out, some fatigue set in, and Anderson Hernandez hit a two-run homer.

Tyler Walker got the next two outs. Pinch-hitter Andy Tracy then singled home a run to make it 5-2 entering the ninth.

And then the came white-knuckle time. Lidge gave up two runs, and the tying run was on second when he struck out Angel Pagan to get his 29th save while the sellout crowd exhaled.


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