Phillies-Blue Jays Preview

The Philadelphia Phillies own the best record in baseball. They

also own the best pitching staff, despite injuries.

A key injury is giving Kyle Kendrick a turn in the rotation as

the Phillies visit the sputtering Toronto Blue Jays in the opener

of a three-game set Friday.

Philadelphia (51-31) leads the majors with a 3.01 staff ERA and

a 2.93 ERA from its rotation.

The Phillies’ starters were astounding last month, compiling a

1.96 ERA to become the first rotation since the Chicago Cubs and

Atlanta in 1992 to go a full month with an ERA under 2.00.

Philadelphia, 17-10 in June, accomplished that feat despite

injuries to starters Roy Oswalt (back) and Joe Blanton (elbow).

Relievers Ryan Madson (hand) and Brad Lidge (rotator cuff) are also

sidelined.

The Phillies nearly added Cole Hamels to that list during

Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Boston. He was hit in the glove hand by a

liner from Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez and left after four

innings.

Hamels’ status for his next start is uncertain.

“We don’t need to lose any pitchers,” manager Charlie Manuel

said. “We definitely need to keep him there, if possible.”

The slew of injuries is allowing Kendrick (4-4, 3.23) to step

in. He’s specifically replacing Oswalt, who is out until at least

next month.

Oswalt’s injury forced him to exit after two innings June 23,

and Kendrick relieved him in that game. He allowed two runs in four

innings while not getting a decision a 12-2 loss.

Kendrick’s most recent start came June 15, when he yielded one

run and five hits in seven innings of an 8-1 win over Florida.

The right-hander has started just five of his 19 games this

year, going 2-2 with a 3.91 ERA.

Rain limited his only meeting with Toronto to one perfect inning

at home before the Phillies eventually lost 6-5 May 18, 2008.

The Phillies have won four of five meetings with the Blue Jays,

including two of three from June 25-27, 2010.

Unlike Philadelphia, Toronto’s rotation ranks near the bottom of

the majors with a 4.48 ERA, and the starters own a bloated 7.71 ERA

while losing eight of 11 at home.

The Blue Jays are 18-20 at Rogers Centre, failing to get back to

.500 after losing 6-2 to Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Ricky Romero (7-7, 2.74) can’t be blamed for those pitching

issues since he’s in the midst of a dominant stretch.

The left-hander has won two of his last three starts with a 1.13

ERA, going at least seven innings each time. He tossed a

four-hitter in Sunday’s 5-0 win at St. Louis.

“He’s the lead guy and guys follow his example,” manager John

Farrell said. “He’s on a very good run in terms of total innings

pitched but yet you look at total number of pitches thrown he’s

been very efficient for the better part of two months.”

Romero has won his last three starts at home, compiling a 1.64

ERA while fanning 23 in 22 innings.

He’s 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA while striking out 16 in 14 innings

over two starts versus the Phillies, but hasn’t faced them since

2009.

Yunel Escobar is 10 for 20 with three doubles, one homer and

three RBIs in five games. The shortstop, however, is 1 for 16

versus Kendrick.