Kendrick sets stage for Ruiz, late Phils' fireworks

Kendrick sets stage for Ruiz, late Phils' fireworks

Kendrick sets stage for Ruiz, late Phils' fireworks
CHICAGO -- Carlos Ruiz's good feeling Wednesday started in the visitors' bullpen that hugs the right-field line at Wrigley Field.

He had just caught Kyle Kendrick's warmup, and he liked what he saw.

"I could see we were going to have a fun game," he said following a 9-2 victory over the Cubs. "I could feel that today."

Before pinch-hitter Hector Luna hit his first big league grand slam in his first Phillies at-bat into the left-field bleachers to turn the game into a laugher in the ninth, Kendrick and Ruiz played big roles in a tightly contested game through eight. Kendrick replaced Vance Worley in the rotation and allowed three hits and one earned run in six innings. Ruiz then hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth to continue to build his case to make his first National League All-Star team.

Kendrick and Ruiz moved the Phillies (19-19) back to .500 for the first time since May 3. They can go over .500 for the first time since Opening Day with a victory in the series finale Thursday, when Roy Halladay (3-3, 3.20 ERA) faces Chris Volstad (0-5, 6.92 ERA).

Kendrick learned he would replace Worley, who was placed on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, following Tuesday's game at Citizens Bank Park. That is not a lot of time to prepare for a start, but he has had far less lead time than that in the past.

He had about 20 minutes to get ready May 19, 2011, when Joe Blanton could not start against Colorado because of a sore elbow. Kendrick got about an hour notice Aug. 19 in Washington, when the Phillies scratched Roy Oswalt because of a two-hour rain delay.

"It was fine," Kendrick said.

He only ran into trouble in the fourth inning. Bryan LaHair worked a 14-pitch at-bat that should have ended with an easy flyout to left field, but Juan Pierre inexplicably dropped the ball. Alfonso Soriano followed with a two-run home run to hand the Cubs a 2-1 lead. But Kendrick recovered to retire the final five batters he faced.

Kendrick threw 93 pitches. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said afterward he thought Kendrick might only throw 70, but Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee kept telling him Kendrick was OK, so he kept throwing him out there.

"That's the best he's pitched this year," Manuel said.

Kendrick was blasted in a relief appearance last Wednesday against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, allowing five runs in one inning, so this was a redemption of sorts.

"His tempo today was better than last time," Ruiz said. "He was working quicker. He didn't have any time to think between every pitch. Before, I think he was trying to be too perfect. He was more aggressive."

Kendrick has a 2.96 ERA in his last 13 starts dating to last season. If Worley misses an extended period of time -- the Phillies hope he misses just a few starts -- Kendrick should be able to handle the load until he is back.

Ruiz has handled more than his share of the offense's production so far. He entered the night with the best on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.965), batting average (.337) and slugging percentage (.584) among big league catchers. He also ranked third in home runs (six) and second in RBIs (23).

He has proven invaluable to a lineup missing two of its biggest producers in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.

"Every at-bat is important," Ruiz said. "I don't try to do too much. I also wasn't thinking home run there. I was trying to get on base, and then it happened, you know? He missed his spot, and I put a good swing on it."

Jose Contreras, Antonio Bastardo and Raul Valdes each threw a perfect inning in relief, which was welcomed. Luna then hit that grand slam against Cubs right-hander Michael Bowden in the ninth.

"It's [Michael] Bowden's first time in the NL," said Cubs pitcher Matt Garza, who allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings. "He's not familiar with all the hitters, and especially when it's a guy I didn't even know they had. I feel I'm one of the most prepared guys and I didn't know they had Hector Luna on the roster."

The Phillies signed Luna, who was a free agent, in December and called him up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Friday.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.