PHILADELPHIA — Heading into the final game before the All-Star break, the Phillies hoped to shake off Saturday night's extra-inning loss and win their sixth game in seven attempts.
To achieve that, Philadelphia would need starter Kyle Kendrick to figure out how to get through the first inning unscathed. He entered with a 4.46 ERA overall, but a 10.50 ERA in 18 first innings.
That number only got worse as the Phillies fell to the Nationals 10-3 and effectively ended any momentum the club had after winning five straight last week.
Kendrick gave up singles to the first two hitters of the game before facing Jayson Werth.
Werth fouled the first pitch of the at-bat straight back prior to depositing the second into the left-field seats.
And just like that, it was 3-0 before the Phillies even recorded an out.
However, as quickly as Kendrick found himself in trouble, that's how fast he was out of the inning, getting a groundout, a fly out and a strike out.
The three runs pushed Kendrick's first-inning ERA to 11.37. In all other innings, he has a 3.63 ERA.
Nobody has answers for why Kendrick can't make it through the first. Not even his manager, Ryne Sandberg.
"It's hard to pinpoint," said Sandberg. "It's been addressed and talked about. He's experimented with things. He gets away from his fastball and gets into the secondary pitches."
That was the case Sunday as one of the first-inning hits came on an 0-2 change-up and another on a breaking ball.
After the Werth home run in the first, Kendrick settled in nicely, retiring the next 14 Washington hitters. The next hit he allowed was a two-out single to opposing pitcher Tanner Roark in the fifth.
Kendrick's didn't receive much support from his offense.
Through five innings the Phillies had just two hits — a leadoff single in the third by Ben Revere and a fifth-inning leadoff double by Cody Asche.
Grady Sizemore, who has hits in each of his first three games as a Phillie, began the sixth with a single and Jimmy Rollins followed with one as well. Groundouts by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard moved the runners over and scored Sizemore, helping the Phillies get on the board and avoid a ninth shutout at home.
Howard received an RBI on the play but performed poorly the entire series, going 0-for-12 with five strikeouts.
Sandberg had a reason for Howard's struggles.
"He's working on feeling comfortable and a comfortable stance," Sandberg said. "He's trying to find a comfort zone with his approach and stance. That is causing some inconsistency and its tough for him to get into a groove."
The Phillies were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position making them 5-for-31 (.161) overall in the series.
Their only success Sunday in that situation came in the ninth when Asche hit his second double of the day, scoring Cesar Hernandez to make it 10-2.