PHILADELPHIA — Recently, the Phillies have not played very well on Sundays or in matchups with the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.
Heading into Sunday afternoon's game, the Phillies won just one of their last 11 Sunday games and, dating back to last year, had lost 11 of their last 12 home games against the Mets. And for most of Sunday, it looked as though the Phillies would continue both trends.
However, with a late rally, the Phillies were able to overcome Kyle Kendrick's subpar outing and top New York 7-6.
Trailing by one, Cody Asche began the ninth with a double and Marlon Byrd followed with a pinch-hit single, knocking in the third baseman to tie the game. Jenrry Mejia retired the next two hitters before intentionally walking Chase Utley to get to Ryan Howard. Howard worked a full count before delivering a walk-off hit. It was the second time in less than a week Howard had a walk-off hit after a team intentionally walked Utley to get to him.
Howard wasn't surprised at how things played out and didn't let his struggles earlier this season — or the fact that he was 0-for-4 with a strikeout coming into that at-bat — creep into his mind.
"My confidence has always been there," Howard said. "It's one of those things. It was pretty much to be expected. Chase had three hits in the game. Three RBIs. Winning run in scoring position, yeah. I don't have any hits. Who are you going to face? Are you going to face the guy with three hits or the guy with no hits? ... I forgot about everything else that happened previously in the game and just wanted to try to win that at-bat."
Howard's not the only one with confidence in himself. Utley always likes to see the first baseman at the plate in clutch situations.
"Listen, Ryan's been driving in runs for a long time," Utley said. "He had a knack for driving in runs and big runs. I want him up any time there are runners on base."
While things ended well, it didn't look good for the Phillies early. They found themselves behind early in another start by Kendrick, but this time it wasn't all the right-hander's fault.
The first batter of the game, Curtis Granderson, reached on a fielding error by Howard and scored on a single by David Wright. A leadoff walk in the second inning crossed the plate on a sacrifice double play and the Phillies' defense kept Kendrick from having an easy third.
Instead of two outs with a runner on first, Domonic Brown pulled up, allowing what should have been a routine fly out by Travis d'Arnaud to fall in for a hit. Kendrick recorded what would have been out number three, but still needing another out, and allowed Juan Lagares to triple to right field making it 4-1 Mets.
Kendrick had trouble finding the strike zone, particularly early, throwing 18 of his first 36 pitches for balls and walking three of the first 10 hitters he faced.
Things never really got better for Kendrick. He allowed at least one run in four of the five innings he pitched.
The fifth inning started off with back-to-back homers by Lucas Duda and D'Arnaud to make it 6-1. Kendrick gave up a third straight hit, a single, but then retired the next three batters to get out of the inning. That's where his day would end.
Among the 92 qualified starting pitchers in baseball, Kendrick now has the fifth-worst ERA (4.88) this season.
"He fell behind in counts and had to throw balls over the plate, and they happened to be elevated," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He was coming off a good game where he established a strike zone, was down in the zone and pitched ahead in the count. So that's what he has to get back to."
Out of the gate, Philadelphia's offense looked like it was ready to match New York run for run as Utley homered in the bottom of the first to tie things at 1-1.
They eventually started to put things together, however, it took them a while to figure out Mets starter Zack Wheeler. Utley's hit was the only one Wheeler allowed until the second baseman singled with one out in the sixth inning.
Grady Sizemore followed with a walk and Brown tried to make up for his earlier defensive lapse by doubling in two runs and cutting New York's lead to 6-3.
The Mets brought in Vic Black to pitch the seventh, but the Phillies continued to mount a comeback.
Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins had two-out singles before Utley struck again, this time with a triple to pull the Phillies within one.
Utley finished the day 3-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs.
Notes: Ken Giles pitched a scoreless ninth and received the win, the first of his major league career. … Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel threw out the first pitch to Chase Utley, one day after being inducted to the Phillies' Wall of Fame.
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