Philadelphia's Kyle Kendrick is enduring a rough season, and has been plagued by first-inning woes.
Good news for him is the San Diego Padres don't do much hitting, regardless of the inning.Kendrick takes the ball as the Phillies look for a three-game sweep of the sputtering Padres on Thursday.Kendrick (1-6, 4.30 ERA) is pitching on six days' rest after manager Ryne Sandberg decided to swap his spot in the rotation with Cole Hamels to keep Hamels on regular rest.Hamels tossed eight innings of five-hit ball while striking out 11 Wednesday, and the Phillies won 3-0 on Reid Brignac's three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth."It feels great to come through for my teammates," said Brignac, who was 8 for 40 with 18 strikeouts before going deep.The Phillies (27-36), who entered this series losers of eight of nine, have won consecutive games for the first time since a three-game streak May 17-20. Their only sweep came over Miami from April 11-13, and they haven't swept San Diego since April 21-24, 2011.Kendrick has a 2.57 ERA in two starts on at least six days' rest this season, but has a 5.02 ERA in his last six outings. The right-hander hasn't pitched since giving up four runs, six hits and a season-worst five walks in seven innings of last Thursday's 4-2 loss to Washington.Kendrick's biggest problem for much of the season has been opponents' .382 average off him in the first inning -- the third-worst mark among starters that have faced at least 40 batters in the first. However, he's limiting hitters to a .239 average after that.The Padres (28-37) are last in the majors in runs (197), batting average (.216) and slugging percentage (.344). They're averaging 1.6 runs while going 2-7 this month, and have been blanked twice while batting .133 (12 for 90) with 30 strikeouts during a three-game losing streak.No. 2 hitter Everth Cabrera has struck out 12 times during an 0-for-23 slump, No. 3 hitter Carlos Quentin is 0 for his last 30 and cleanup hitter Chase Headley is batting .170 while leaving 23 runners on base in his last 15 games.Kendrick held the Padres to two runs over eight innings to win his only start against San Diego last season. Cameron Maybin and Headley are a combined 2 for 16 against Kendrick, with each homering once.Not surprising considering his team's offensive woes, San Diego's Eric Stults (2-7, 5.68) has the majors' second-worst run support average at 2.63. Even if Stults was getting help from his offense, however, it may not lead to many more wins given the way he's been pitching.The left-hander has an 8.53 ERA in his last four starts, and baseball's third-worst ERA among qualifying pitchers on the season. He permitted a season-high six runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings -- the shortest of his 85 career starts -- in Sunday's 6-0 loss to Washington. He served up another homer -- his 13th in 65 innings. That ratio of 1.8 per every nine innings is third-worst in baseball."His pitches are up in the zone. He's not locating his fastball," manager Bud Black told the Padres' official website. "A pitcher like Stultsy has to hit his spots."Jimmy Rollins, who is three hits shy of breaking Mike Schmidt's franchise record of 2,234, is 3 for 8 with a homer lifetime against Stults.Stults made the only two starts of his career against the Phillies last season, recording a 2.77 ERA without a decision.
Phillies hitters have hit .265 this season in at-bats that end in an off-speed pitch from a lefty, the second-best rate in baseball. Eric Stults has thrown 48.5 percent off-speed pitches this season, the third-highest percentage among qualified lefties.