Looking to dig themselves out of an early-season hole, the Philadelphia Phillies try to extend their longest winning streak of the season tonight behind Kyle Kendrick, who makes another replacement start in the opener of a two-game series versus the Chicago Cubs.
Losses in six of eight had the Phillies four games under .500, but the club has crept to within a game of the even mark thanks to their first three-game winning streak of 2012. Tuesday's victory over Houston didn't come without anxious moments, but Philadelphia was able to squeeze out a 4-3 victory when Hunter Pence hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Pence also hit a solo homer in the sixth inning and his walk-off blast helped to atone for his fielding error in the ninth that allowed Houston's game-tying run to score.
"I was pulling for him. I was happy for him. Two home runs and three hits is a big offensive day," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who was ejected in the eighth inning for arguing.
It made a winner of Jake Diekman, who tossed 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in his major-league debut. Starter Cliff Lee did not earn a decision despite scattering five hits and one run over eight innings, fanning a season-high 10 batters.
Brian Schneider hit a two-run homer for the Phillies, who will turn to Kendrick tonight after scheduled starter Vance Worley did not make the trip to Chicago due to soreness in his elbow.
Kendrick made three previous starts this season in place of the injured Lee, going 0-2 with a 6.43 earned run average. He hasn't been much better in his role of long relief, posting a 9.53 ERA in five appearances out of the bullpen.
The right-hander's relief numbers took a hit last Wednesday when he allowed five runs on four hits and two walks in one inning of work versus the Mets, getting charged with the loss.
Kendrick, 27, faced the Cubs as a starter on April 29 and was handed a defeat after he was charged with three runs -- two earned -- on five hits over six innings with seven strikeouts. He is 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA in three games (2 starts) lifetime versus the Cubs.
Kendrick certainly pitched well enough to win on that day, but was outdueled by Matt Garza, who gets his second look at the Phillies this season as well.
The right-hander hurled seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball versus Philadelphia on April 29, walking one and striking out 10 in a 5-1 win. That pushed his career numbers in this series to 2-1 with a 0.96 ERA in four starts.
Garza was then sidelined with the flu and did not make his next start until Friday versus the Brewers. He lasted just five innings, giving up a run on three hits and five walks in a no-decision. Garza is 2-1 with a 2.56 ERA in six starts this season, including 1-0 with a 1.66 ERA in three at home.
The Cubs were also shooting for their first three-game win streak of the season on Tuesday, but they were dealt a walk-off 7-6 loss in St. Louis.
Alfonso Soriano tied the game for Chicago in the top of the ninth with a solo homer, but Yadier Molina sent the Cards to victory with a game-winning single in the bottom of the frame with two outs, slicing a grounder off the glove of second baseman Darwin Barney and into right. That hit scored Matt Holliday, who had begun the frame with a single to center.
"I thought I was going to get there," Barney said. "I was pretty close on Holliday's ball too. It's unfortunate."
Chicago got out to an early start, plating three runs in the top of the first on an RBI single by Starlin Castro, a groundout by Bryan LaHair and an Ian Stewart double, but saw the game tied by the end of the second.
The Phillies and Cubs split four meetings in Philadelphia back on April 27-30, but the Phils have still won seven of the last 10 encounters.