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Phillies drop series opener to Nationals, 5-2

Erik Kratz (left) pats starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (38) on the chest as he departs the mound after talking during the second inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park,Friday, May 24, 2013, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Erik Kratz (left) pats starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (38) on the chest as he departs the mound after talking during the second inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park,Friday, May 24, 2013, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)Read more

WASHINGTON - Kyle Kendrick flirted with disaster in the third inning at Nationals Park but was able to escape without much damage.

Kendrick's off-kilter night continued in the fifth, and he wasn't as fortunate.

Kendrick got two ground balls and a fly ball from the first three batters he faced in the inning. Two of them reached base and scored to fuel a four-run inning that was the difference in the Phillies' 5-2 loss to Washington last night.

After rattling off a 4-0 record with a 1.84 ERA in a seven-start, monthlong span, Kendrick had his second straight mediocre start. He has allowed 16 hits and eight walks in his last two games.

He walked three straight batters in the third inning.

"He was having trouble with command of the strike zone," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He was throwing some balls up at the same time he was having trouble throwing the ball over the plate, getting it to where he wanted it to go."

But Kendrick did have a 2-1 lead entering the fifth inning last night, thanks to a leadoff double from Ryan Howard and an RBI single from Domonic Brown in the second and back-to-back hits from Brown and Freddy Galvis that preceded a Erik Kratz sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth.

Although the Nationals' offense has been worse than the Phillies' this season, they have gotten production out of rising star Bryce Harper, and the Nats' spark plug went to work in the bottom half of the inning. Harper scalded a ground ball just under third baseman Michael Young's outstretched glove to begin the fifth.

After Ryan Zimmerman hit into a fielder's choice, taking Harper off the bases, Zimmerman made a 270-foot trek around the bases to score on a long fly ball to centerfield, off the bat of Adam LaRoche, and hit over Ben Revere's head.

Revere used his Gold Glove-worthy speed to catch up to the ball, but did not look Gold Glove-worthy in the least when he got out to the wall: He was a few feet away from the ball, which caromed off the wall and well out of his reach.

"I'll make that play next time," said Revere, who positioned himself shallower than normal because of a blustery wind at Nationals Park. "I went back to the fence and - whooosh - it went right by my head a little bit and tipped my glove. In that situation, with the wind, trying to get in position and trying to rob a home run, seeing where the fence is . . . normal conditions, I probably catch that."

Zimmerman tied the game at 2-2 and LaRoche ended up with his second triple since 2010.

Two batters later, Kurt Suzuki punched a base hit to leftfield to score the go-ahead run. Kendrick couldn't stop the bleeding there, however, as Tyler Moore followed with an infield single and Steve Lombardozzi made it three hits in a row and ice the inning with a two-run double.

Despite the shaky defense in the inning, Kendrick took on some of the blame, too. Lombardozzi's double came on a 2-0 pitch. LaRoche's triple was on a 3-0 sinker right down the heart of the plate.

On both pitches, Kendrick had the same answer: "I was tired of walking guys."

After walking two batters in his first three starts in May, Kendrick has walked four in back-to-back starts.

"I've been behind in the count, not working ahead," Kendrick said. "But I'll get out of it. I'll get ahead next outing and try to get some early contact like I have in the past. The last two outings, I haven't done that."

Although Revere's defense behind Kendrick might have betrayed him in the fifth, it saved him an inning earlier. After Moore reached on an error by Jimmy Rollins to begin the fourth, he tried to score from second when Lombardozzi followed with a single to center.

But Revere, not known for his arm strength, fired home, and the ball beat Lombardozzi, who tried to bulldoze over Erik Kratz, but the big-bodied catcher took the hit and held on for the inning's first out.

The loss prevented the Phils from reaching the .500 mark for the first time since April 14. The Phillies (23-25) won't have the chance to get over the .500 hump until Memorial Day in Boston at the earliest.

Last night marked the 19th time in 48 games the Phillies failed to score more than two runs. They had opportunities, with none better than the fifth. After Brown and Galvis began the inning with base hits and Kratz followed with a sacrifice fly, Kendrick and Rollins also singled to load the bases with one out.

But the Phils failed to pad their 2-1 lead when Revere grounded into an inning-ending doubleplay.

"That's kind of the way it goes," Manuel said. "We were right there with them until we went back out on the field there. They scored and went ahead of us. They shut us down from there."