Phillies-Nationals Preview

With his team’s offense already doing plenty of damage, Kyle

Kendrick could get plenty of run support in his season debut. But

the way he pitched during spring training, the Philadelphia

Phillies right-hander might not need it.

Starting for the injured Joe Blanton, Kendrick takes the ball

Thursday afternoon against the Washington Nationals as the two-time

defending NL champs look to sweep its first season-opening series

in nine years.

After pounding out 13 hits in an 11-1 season-opening victory

Monday, Philadelphia tagged Nationals pitchers for 11 more hits in

Wednesday’s 8-4 win.

The Phillies are 2-0 for the first time in seven seasons and

have won 14 of 15 against Washington.

“The thing about it is, everybody’s not on the same zone right

now. We still got guys (struggling) – it’s still early,” said

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who is definitely not

struggling after homering for the second straight game and driving

in three runs. “Not everybody’s going on full tilt right now.”

Howard, though, has been in his last 12 games at Nationals Park,

hitting seven homers with 18 RBIs. His nine home runs at the

two-year-old stadium are the most by a visiting player.

“(Howard is) making adjustments on our pitching,” said

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “He’s just so dangerous.”

Placido Polanco is also proving to be. The Phillies’ new third

baseman followed up Monday’s career-best six-RBI effort with his

second straight multihit game.

“It’s a really good feeling knowing these guys are going to put

up some runs, and you just have to go out there and just try to

plug away, get the job done and not really stress as much,” said

Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels. “It makes the game a little bit

more easy.”

That offensive punch could benefit Kendrick, who gets the start

after Blanton was placed on the 15-day disabled list last week with

a strained left oblique.

Despite losing the battle for the fifth starter spot to veteran

Jamie Moyer, Kendrick displayed an improved fastball and better

control of his breaking pitches during spring training. He went 1-1

with a 1.46 ERA in nine appearances.

“I had a great winter … got myself in shape,” Kendrick told

the Phillies’ official Web site during the spring. “I feel better

where I’m at than last year.”

Last season, Kendrick was 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA in nine

appearances. He won 10 and 11, respectively, the previous two

seasons with Philadelphia.

Washington counters with Craig Stammen, who will try to give the

Nationals a better effort than their first two starters.

John Lannan allowed five runs over 3 2/3 innings Monday, and

Jason Marquis lasted just four innings in his Nationals debut

Wednesday, giving up six runs and issuing three walks.

Stammen had an up-and-down rookie season in 2009, going 4-7 with

a 5.11 ERA. He pitched the majority of the year with bone chips in

his right elbow before missing the final month of the season to

surgically repair the problem.

“I’m really happy for Stammen, because he is pitching without

those bone chips,” Riggleman told the Nationals’ official Web site

during spring training.

Stammen, 26, has never faced Philadelphia.

Nationals left fielder Josh Willingham, who has four hits in

seven at-bats in the series, is 3 for 9 with a homer lifetime

versus Kendrick.

Philadelphia has not swept a season-opening series since 2001 at

Florida.