Kennedy one of NL's most improved pitchers in 2nd half

ERA since All-Star break is 2.32

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Although he suffered the loss Friday night, Padres right-handed starter Ian Kennedy turned in his fifth straight quality start and his sixth in the last seven games.

"Kennedy has been building up," Padres manager Pat Murphy said before Kennedy allowed two runs on two hits and five walks with seven strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings against the Phillies. "The last 3 or 4 he's been on it. I'm confident where he's at."

Since the All-Star break, Kennedy is 4-4 with a 2.32 earned run average (13 runs in 50 1/3 innings). It is the seventh-best, second-half ERA in the National League. Kennedy had a 4.91 ERA in the first half of the season.

Over his last 16 starts since June 1, Kennedy is 6-7 with a 2.63 ERA with 93 strikeouts against 29 walks with an opponents' batting average of .230. He has allowed three runs or less in all but onme of those 16 starts and the Padres are 9-7 during the run.

Kennedy has given up 26 home runs this season. But after allowing at least one home run in 12 straight games, Kennedy has made two straight starts without allowing a home run.

FROM THE SCORECARD:

-- Corrections: The Padres are 51-0 when leading after eight innings. And Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel are 31-3 when working in tandem.

-- Justin Upton has three home runs on the first four games of the road trip and has now hit eight of his 23 home runs this season away from Petco Park. He is now hitting .211 on the road with eight home runs and 31 RBIs compared to .306 at Petco Park with 15 homers and 40 RBIs.

-- Second baseman Cory Spangenberg has two of the Padres five hits in their last two games. He had a bunt single in the finale at Washington Thursday night and used his speed to turn a single into a double Friday night in Philadelphia. Spangenberg is hitting .286 on the road this season compared to .226 at home.

-- Matt Kemp returns to right field Saturday night after missing two games with a sore left shoulder. Although his 15-game hitting streak ended in Washington Tuesday night, Kemp has still reached base in 17 straight games. Kemp's hitting streak is the longest by a Padre this season and his on-base streak is second to Justin Upton's 18-Game on-base streak from Aug. 3-23.