Phillies-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Jimmy Rollins has seen the best and worst of the Philadelphia Phillies during his tenure, from five straight division titles and a World Series championship to difficult seasons such as this.

Though his career may be in its twilight, the 15-year veteran still is doing all he can to help Philadelphia rise out of the NL East basement.

The Phillies seek their sixth road victory in seven tries as Kyle Kendrick takes the hill against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.

Rollins won the NL MVP in 2007 before the Phillies won the pennant the following two seasons. Those days seem far behind Rollins and Philadelphia (43-54), which is going through its third straight underwhelming campaign since the team's last division title.

The shortstop is hitting just .244, an average that if it stands would be the worst of his career. Rollins has turned it on lately, though, hitting safely in six of his last seven with four homers and nine RBIs in that stretch.

His two-run homer in the seventh inning Saturday helped the Phillies pull out a 2-1 win over the Braves, but he knows changes are likely coming with the July 31 trade deadline approaching.

''Regardless of how we play, they're still going to make their decisions for the future of the team,'' Rollins said. ''You say we're not going to compete this year, but we have the last say in that. Hopefully that is something that's going to happen this year.''

Something that definitely needs to change is Kendrick's inability to get through the first inning unscathed.

Kendrick (4-9, 4.62 ERA) is 1-3 with a 6.40 ERA over his last five starts after allowing five runs - three in the first - in 5 2-3 innings of last Sunday's 10-3 loss to Washington. His only win in that stretch came when he allowed seven runs - five in the first - in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-7 victory over Milwaukee on July 8.

The right-hander has allowed 11 first-inning runs over his last four outings, and seven of the 15 home runs he's allowed in 19 starts have come in the first.

''I just have to make pitches in that first inning," Kendrick said. "That's what it comes down to.''

Manager Ryne Sandberg hasn't been able to figure out Kendrick's early struggles.

''It's really hard to pinpoint,'' Sandberg said. ''It's been addressed and talked about. He seems to at times get away from his fastball early and go to secondary pitches early on."

The Phillies didn't allow the Braves to get on the board Saturday until Chris Johnson's RBI double in the seventh. Johnson is 8 for 16 with three homers and eight RBIs over his last four games for Atlanta (53-44), which had its three-game winning streak snapped.

Alex Wood will take the hill in this contest for the Braves, who are a percentage point behind Washington for the NL East lead.

Wood (6-7, 3.36) is 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA in four starts since being recalled from the minors June 25, most recently allowing four runs in 5 1-3 innings of Atlanta's 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs on July 11.

The left-hander made 11 straight appearances out of the bullpen before being sent down to prepare him to rejoin the rotation.

"It's one of those things - sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don't," Wood said after his outing against the Cubs.

Wood likely felt similarly after allowing one run and striking out seven in eight innings against the Phillies on April 17, but the Braves' offense didn't do its part in a 1-0 defeat.

What to Read Next