Kendrick heeds Maddux's advice

Kendrick heeds Maddux's advice

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies-Dodgers game at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night featured a classic pitching matchup of the youngster who's eager to prove himself against the wise, seasoned veteran.

The Phillies sent Kyle Kendrick to the hill, a 23-year-old right-hander who has become an integral part of their staff, but is still fighting the ups and downs that come with a hurler's first full season in the Major Leagues.

The Dodgers sent future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux to the mound to make his first start since they acquired him Tuesday from the Padres.

If Kendrick continues to pitch as well as he did during the Phillies' 8-1 win, the youngster might have to credit a portion of his success to Maddux.

Kendrick entered Friday's outing on the heels of perhaps the roughest six-start stretch of his career, a span in which he compiled a 6.90 ERA to raise his season mark to 5.01.

His most recent start was Saturday in San Diego, and it wasn't pretty. Kendrick walked five, couldn't find the strike zone and consistently pitched behind in the count. The 23-year-old surrendered six earned runs in the Phils' 8-3 loss.

Like he routinely does after his starts, Kendrick consulted with veteran hurler Jamie Moyer. This time, however, Moyer had an extra piece of advice for the youngster -- that he should discuss his struggles with Maddux, who was then still with the Padres. So before the next day's game, Kendrick made his way into PETCO Park's outfield for a 40-minute conversation with Maddux.

"It was exciting," Kendrick said. "I was talking about my struggles. He talked to me for a long time. I was very fortunate. Obviously, he's been doing something right."

Something from that conversation must have resonated strongly in Kendrick's mind. He held the Dodgers to one run Friday, on a first-inning homer by Andre Ethier, helping the Phils earn a win that allowed them to remain 2 1/2 games behind the Mets in the National League East.

The young righty was helped by Ryan Howard's two-run homer in the fourth, which gave the Phils a 2-1 lead. Chase Utley added a solo shot in the seventh for the game's final run.

Kendrick labored through the game's first two innings before he was able to settle in. He threw 46 pitches in the first two frames, including an eight-pitch at-bat in which he walked the dangerous Manny Ramirez in the first.

But the home run by Eithier was the only damage Los Angeles would inflict against the second-year right-hander on Friday. His high pitch count in the first two frames meant that he had to be pulled after 5 2/3 innings, but Kendrick allowed only three hits and walked only two to earn the victory.

"With Kendrick, it's so simple," said catcher Chris Coste, who hit a three-run homer and an RBI single. "If he doesn't have his sinker, he's in big trouble. If he has it, he's got a chance."

He had it on Friday. Kendrick, like Maddux, is a contact pitcher, letting the opponent put it in play and relying on his defense to make outs. That was one of the main things the hurlers discussed during their meeting in San Diego.

"The first thing I said to him was, 'I'm afraid of contact,' " Kendrick said. "The first thing he says is 'I'm afraid of contact, too.' No one wants to get hit. It's part of the game."

Kendrick's victory on Friday was his 11th of 2008, one more than he had last season, when he was called up from Double-A Reading in June. The young righty's 21 career victories are a far cry from Maddux's 353, but Kendrick is hoping the advice he received from the future Hall of Famer will carry him a long way.

"I would love to have the career that he's having," Kendrick said.

Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.