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Phillies vs Indians Preview: Kendrick vs Westbrook

(Sports Network) – With an offense that has averaged just over three runs per game through the last 31 contests, starters Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick have both stepped up their game for the Phillies.

After the former took care of business last night, Kendrick gets his shot at putting together another solid outing this evening when Philadelphia continues a three-game series versus the Cleveland Indians at Citizens Bank Park.

While the Phillies’ season-long offensive struggles have been a surprise, so has the play of Moyer and Kendrick. Many wondered what the 47-year-old Moyer had left in the tank, while Kendrick only cracked Philadelphia’s rotation to begin the year due to injury.

However, both have been key to the Phillies staying in the hunt in the National League East despite the team hitting just .223 since May 18.

After throwing eight innings of two-run ball in a win over the Yankees on June 16, Moyer held the Indians to just a Russell Branyan solo homer over eight innings of a 2-1 victory last night.

The ageless lefty won his eighth game and allowed just two hits in all while tying Bob Feller and Eppa Rixey for 35th place on baseball’s all-time wins list with 266. However, he also tied the late Robin Roberts for the most homers allowed all-time, as Branyan’s blast was the 505th Moyer has allowed in his career.

Still, only Trevor Crowe managed another hit off Moyer.

“I was able to keep the ball down and they put the ball in play early in the count, which is a big help,” Moyer said.

Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth both knocked in a run in the first inning for the Phillies, who have won four of six and moved within 4 1/2 games of the first- place Braves in the National League East.

Playing for the first time since May 21 due to a strained calf that has twice landed him on the disabled list, Jimmy Rollins went 0-for-4 out of the leadoff spot for the Phillies last night.

Philadelphia now turns to Kendrick and the right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.33 earned run average over his last five starts. He is coming off a big victory over the Yankees on Thursday in which he held the defending World Series champs to a run and four hits over seven innings.

“I feel like I’m getting better every time I’m out there,” Kendrick said on the Phillies’ website after improving to 4-2 with a 4.48 ERA this year. “I think it’s just learning and maturing.”

The 25-year-old has faced the Indians once before, picking up a victory in Cleveland on June 19, 2007 after yielding three runs over six innings.

The Indians hope that Jake Westbrook can avoid the early-game woes tonight that plagued his last start. The right-hander allowed three first-inning runs in a start against the Mets on Thursday and five runs total over his seven- inning outing that also saw him give up a season-high 11 hits. Westbrook had a two-decision win streak end while picking up just his second loss in his last 10 starts.

“It is just frustrating to get down early with three runs in the first. Crooked numbers are what kills you,” Westbrook said.

The 32-year-old is 4-4 with a 4.76 ERA this year and has never before faced the Phillies. He is 6-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 26 career interleague games, 16 of those starts.

The Indians will take an outing tonight similar to the one Mitch Talbot turned in on Tuesday in a tough-luck loss. Talbot allowed just two runs and four hits over seven innings, but Cleveland lost its third straight game and for the seventh time in eight contests.

“I thought Mitch did a very good job,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “This guy continues to show us that he can make pitches when he has to. The first five innings he only threw 50 percent of his pitches for strikes, yet still made pitches when he had to. He gave us an opportunity to win the ball game.”

Cleveland, though, hasn’t scored more than four runs in any of its past six games, hitting .248 in that span.

The Indians took two of three from the Phillies when the clubs last met in Cleveland in 2007 and are visiting Philadelphia for the first time in the regular season.