ATLANTA -- These past few weeks have been filled with frustration for the Braves, who suffered a 5-2 loss as Kyle Kendrick preserved the early advantage the Phillies gained against Ervin Santana on Tuesday night.
Since regaining first place in the National League East standings with a three-game sweep of the Marlins, the Braves have lost nine of the 15 games that have followed. They are now in jeopardy of being in second place when they travel to Washington D.C. to resume their division rivalry with the Nationals this weekend.
When the Braves got off to a hot start, Santana was in the midst of producing a 1.99 ERA through his first six starts. At the time, it looked like the Braves were wise to give him a $14.1 million salary in March. But thoughts have changed as Santana has produced a 6.17 ERA in the seven starts that have followed.
Santana has shown a tendency to be damaged by the long ball and Ryan Howard has never shied away from taking a Braves pitcher deep. Thus, it was not necessarily surprising to see Howard open the scoring by hitting a two-run homer off Santana with two outs in the first inning.
Howard has hit more home runs (46) than any other active player against the Braves. Among all players who have ever hit at least 25 homers against the Braves, he possesses the second-best at-bat/home run ratio (11.41), trailing only Dave Kingman (11.17).
The Phillies added to their early advantage after Dominic Brown walked to begin the fourth against Santana. Reid Brignac later dropped a double in front of B.J. Upton to put two on with one out. Brown scored when catcher Gerald Laird allowed a Santana pitch to go through his legs. Cesar Hernandez capped the two-run fourth with an RBI single.
Phillies starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick pitched around Freddie Freeman's two-out double in the first inning and escaped again when Jason Heyward's third-inning double helped put runners at second and third with two outs.
The Braves finally dented the scoreboard in the fifth inning when Gerald Laird drew a one-out walk and advanced to second base on Santana's sacrifice bunt. Heyward followed with an RBI single. The only other run Kendrick surrendered in seven innings came courtesy of Laird's double-play groundout which scored Chris Johnson, who had doubled with one out in the seventh .
Kendrick has compiled a 3.34 ERA in 16 career starts against the Braves. He has produced a 4.51 ERA in the 151 starts made against other Major League opponents
---- Source: MLB.com