Phillies-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Braves veteran Ervin Santana can't explain why he's been so inconsistent lately, and Philadelphia's Kyle Kendrick can't figure out why he's had so many first-inning issues.

These starters own the same ERA but have had very different seasons, and they'll square off Tuesday night when the Phillies play in Atlanta.

With Santana's recent struggles and Kendrick's ongoing road woes, another low-scoring affair between these NL East rivals seems unlikely. They nearly played a third consecutive 1-0 game - the first two were in April - until Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon allowed a run in the ninth inning Monday and suffered his first blown save since April 2.

Philadelphia (30-38) went on to win 6-1 in 13 innings, the second time in three days the Braves (36-33) have played that many. Their bullpen has pitched 15 2-3 innings in that span, putting pressure on Santana (5-3, 4.09 ERA) to last long Tuesday.

"You start getting deep into the bullpen and you start putting guys in situations that they could hurt themselves or risk injuries," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's not good."

Signing Santana in mid-March appeared to be a good decision, as the right-hander went 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA through six starts. He's since given up at last five runs in four of six, including six allowed in 6 1-3 innings of Thursday's 10-3 loss at Colorado.

Santana appeared to have turned things around in his previous outing, yielding an unearned run in seven innings against Arizona.

"Nobody is perfect," he told the team's official website. "We're just trying to make good pitches. Sometimes they hit it and sometimes they don't. I'm just trying to keep the same positive mentality all of the time."

Unlike Santana, Kendrick (2-6, 4.09) had an unpleasant start to 2014 as he went winless through nine outings. However, he's since won two of four after beating San Diego on Thursday, with both runs he surrendered coming in the first inning of a 7-3 victory.

Kendrick has a 9.00 ERA in the first inning as batters have hit .393 against him.

"I don't have an answer," he said. "I've tried everything. Maybe next game I won't warm up."

The right-hander is also seeking answers on the road, where he's 0-8 with a 5.46 ERA in 11 starts - with just 18 runs of support - since defeating the Mets on July 19. Turner Field, though, is one of two NL ballparks where he has never lost with a 3-0 record and 2.45 ERA in 11 games, including six starts. He's also unbeaten in San Francisco but has pitched there just three times.

Kendrick, however, has a 6.86 ERA in his last four outings against the Braves - all at home.

Santana has had no such trouble with the Phillies. He held them to one run and struck out 11 in six innings April 14 before the Braves rallied to win 9-6. In two starts versus Philadelphia, Santana has allowed one earned run and six hits in 13 innings with 20 strikeouts.

Ryan Howard homered off him this year and went deep Monday - his eighth homer in 16 games against Atlanta - before driving in the winning run.

Reid Brignac had a two-run triple later in the 13th and has batted .389 with seven RBIs over his last five games.

The Phillies are last in the East but have won five of seven.

"There's still a lot of baseball left," Brignac said. "We're only (5 1/2) out of first."

Atlanta's Chris Johnson has six multihit efforts in his last eight games, and Justin Upton had his first in nearly three weeks Monday. Johnson is 5 for 9 against Kendrick since the start of 2011 while Upton is 5 for 10 with two homers.

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