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