PHILADELPHIA -- When a five-run deficit morphed into a dramatic win, the Phillies tackled Ryan Howard. The embattled first baseman delivered again Sunday, and he raised his right arm before the 3-2 slider landed a few feet inside the chalk as a game-winning single. The celebration for a 7-6 victory over the Mets pushed Howard to the ground.
New York blew a 6-1 lead. Howard, with the tying run 90 feet away in the seventh inning, struck out. He atoned soon after. A few teammates pulled Howard from the ground. He conducted a postgame interview, which followed with a shaving-cream pie in the face.
These fun times are fleeting but no less enjoyable in the moment. Howard's single, preceded by a Cody Asche double and Marlon Byrd's pinch-hit single, served as another piece of redemption. New York pitched around Chase Utley to reach Howard. That, recently, is a familiar sight.
Utley, who mustered the Phillies' lone hit in the first five innings, was a double short of the cycle.
Howard absolved Kyle Kendrick for another clunker. New York bludgeoned Kendrick for six runs (five earned) on 10 hits in five innings.
Kendrick could be a candidate for demotion to the bullpen, if the Phillies possessed better options. They do not. He is the No. 3 starter in a depleted rotation that shuffled one veteran retread (Sean O'Sullivan) for another (Jerome Williams) on Sunday. Kendrick will be a free agent after this season.
Lucas Duda and Travis d'Arnaud homered on consecutive pitches in the fifth. The first batter reached in four of Kendrick's five innings. Two of his three walks led to runs. He pitched at a tedious pace, a bad habit that two pitching coaches have failed to correct.
Kendrick's ERA since the start of the 2013 season is 4.78. Only Edwin Jackson (5.25) and Edinson Volquez (4.83) have higher marks among pitchers with at least 300 innings during that span.
He permitted another first-inning run, albeit unearned because Kendrick's second pitch was a grounder that skipped through Howard's legs for an error. Kendrick's ERA in the first inning is 9.00; it is 4.09 in subsequent innings.
Jim Bunning holds the franchise record for first-inning runs allowed (36) in 1970. Kendrick is up to 27 this season. He could make eight more starts in 2014.
Utley's two-run triple in the seventh trimmed the deficit to one. Howard, who stung the ball in his first three at-bats (all for outs), pushed a full count against Mets lefthanded specialist Josh Edgin with Utley 90 feet from home. A well-placed slider extinguished Howard.
Two innings later, he smiled.
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