Kendrick continues to make his case he should be in the rotation in 2013.
"He's been one of those guys who has always had to fight to survive," Manuel said. "No one can ever say he's not a survivor. He finds a way. When he's pitching like that, it just goes to show you he is a valuable commodity. He can do the job."
But the game had meaning to more than just Kendrick. Manuel managed the eighth inning like one game separated the teams in the National League East standings, instead of the 19 1/2-game gap it was. He used four pitchers in the eighth -- Antonio Bastardo, Josh Lindblom, Raul Valdes and B.J. Rosenberg -- with Rosenberg striking out Jayson Werth on a 96-mph fastball to end the inning.
"That was pretty cool," Rosenberg said. "That was definitely the biggest spot that I've been in since I've been up here. It's definitely the most jacked up I've been. It was a big strikeout, a big out for us. I was really happy."
Rosenberg is 0-1 with a 10.24 ERA in 12 appearances, but his last four appearances have been scoreless. The Phillies are having open auditions for the 2013 bullpen. A strong finish from Rosenberg could put him in better position entering Spring Training.
"Yeah, I saw a nice big 97 up there a few times," Manuel said of Rosenberg's at-bat against Werth. "I like that. Yeah, Rosey's kind of calming down. His face doesn't get so red anymore."
"I don't know about that. I think it's always red," Rosenberg said with a smile. "I feel like I can slow the game down a little bit now. That's one of the biggest things I was working on. ... It was big. It not only helps [the team's] opinion of me, but it also gives me more confidence. I feel like the more confidence you have, the better you pitch. You've just got to try to keep it going."
The Phils might not have a shot at winning the division, but it doesn't mean they don't want to win this series. They pitched well enough and got just enough offense -- Jimmy Rollins' two-out, two-run double in the fourth proved to be the difference -- to beat the team with the best record in baseball in the series opener.
The Phillies and Nationals find themselves in a role reversal with the end of the regular season a little more than five weeks away.
The Nats are on pace to win 99 games and make the postseason for just the second time in franchise history (the Expos started play in 1969), while the Phillies are on pace to win 75 games and miss the postseason for the first time since 2006. Last season, Philadelphia won a franchise-record 102 games, while Washington won 80.
The Nationals used a couple strong series against the Phillies late in the season to boost their confidence entering the offseason. The Nats took two of three from the Phils at Nationals Park on Aug. 19-21, and swept them in a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 20-22.
"It's a fun time," Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa said last September. "It's a fun game to play against them. I want to play them hard because I know we can beat them. We are showing that."
"It shows you that we could play," Nationals left fielder Michael Morse said. "We could be a big contender in this division coming up."
The Nats had no idea how quickly they would reach the top of the division, while the Phillies had no inkling they would fall so fast. Of the first 93 teams to win 100 games in a season since 1900, only five finished the following season with a losing record.
The Phils are trying to avoid becoming the sixth. They are 22-17 (.564) since the All-Star break. If they maintain that pace over the final 36 games, they will finish 79-83.
Winning the series this week and winning the series at Nationals Park the final week of the season could help the Phillies finish the year with a winning record, and give them a little confidence boost entering the offseason.
"We want to beat these guys," Kendrick said. "I'm sure they're feeling pretty good where they're at. It would be nice to sweep them, you know? Why not?"
"I think from here on out, it doesn't matter if we're playing the Nationals, whoever we're playing," Manuel said. "I think if we can finish the season strong ... I think that's definitely going to help us. Yes. I think that would play a part in a lot of our players' thinking and everything."