Facing Kendrick, the Mets stacked their lineup with left-handers, who entered the game batting .330 this season off the Philadelphia righty. Much like everything else the Mets did to try to break through the Phillies' pitching in this three-game set, it didn't work.
Kendrick pitched 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, and the Phils grabbed the rubber game at Citi Field with a 3-1 win. Philadelphia pitchers held the Mets to two runs in 26 innings over the weekend -- the team's own rebuttal to being shut out three straight nights during its first trip to Flushing.
"He did a good job," Manuel said of Kendrick, who earned his eighth win of the season. "Super. He was moving the ball and using all his pitches."
The victory kept the Phillies within two games of Atlanta in the National League East and pulled them into a tie with the Giants for the Wild Card lead as the teams prepare for a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park starting Tuesday.
Kendrick's start didn't inspire much confidence through his first two innings. He allowed hits to four of the first six Mets, and he required 44 pitches to get through two frames. He went to three-ball counts on five Mets the first time through the order. A caught stealing, however, prevented the Mets from crossing the plate in the first.
After yielding a leadoff homer to Jose Reyes in the third -- a 1-1 cutter Reyes was able to swat off the foul pole in right -- Kendrick cruised. He needed the same 44 pitches over the next four innings, and he had only three three-ball counts against the final 17 men he faced. He finished having retired 17 of the final 20 batters against him.
The only hit he surrendered after Reyes' homer was a bunt single to Luis Castillo leading off the fifth.
"I got more aggressive, trying to get ahead," said Kendrick of his adjustments following the slow start. "I feel like I've been throwing the ball well aside from last time. I was just getting back on track."
Indeed, this is the fourth time in his past five outings that Kendrick pitched at least six innings while allowing two or fewer runs. Not coincidentally, the Phillies are 4-1 in those contests.
"Give him credit, he threw strikes," said Mets third baseman David Wright, who was 1-for-3. "He changed speeds and really just pounded the zone."
Kendrick credited a renewed willingness to challenge left-handers inside to prevent them from sitting on his sinker away. Manuel cited the number of fly balls hit to center field -- five -- as a sign that the starter's strategy had worked.
"That's a good place to let them hit it in this yard," Manuel said.
Citi Field's size played into the Phillies' offensive strategy as well. Having scored only four runs and being held without a home run in five previous games in Flushing this season, Philadelphia resorted to small ball. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino each sparked a pair of two-out rallies, using their legs to get themselves into scoring position.
With two outs in the third against Mike Pelfrey, Rollins singled into left-center field. He stole second on the first delivery to Victorino, then swiped third three pitches later. Victorino worked a full count before grounding a double past Ike Davis at first and down the right-field line to open the scoring.
Two innings later, it was Victorino with the two-out single and stolen base to move into scoring position for a Placido Polanco RBI single up the middle off Pelfrey -- again on a full count.
"That's what it's all about -- you steal a base and you come up with a hit," said Victorino, who finished with three knocks. "I'm sure a lot of people miss that part of our game.
"It's such a big park. You can't rely on the home run. ... You've got to stick to the small ball, and hopefully it works. It worked tonight."
The Phillies added a run in the sixth on a leadoff triple by Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz's one-out RBI single through a drawn-in infield. It marked Ruiz's 18th RBI in his past 17 games.
And so, right after the Phillies won a series over the Dodgers by averaging seven runs, they won another series scoring seven runs total to sit atop the Wild Card standings.
The Phils, however, tried to downplay the significance of the series.
"I never even look at the Wild Card," Manuel said. "I don't think about the Wild Card. Winning the division is what I look at."
Said Ryan Madson, who pitched a scoreless inning: "It's August. They're all big now."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less