Phillies-Twins Preview

The Philadelphia Phillies were three games over .500 and had won

seven of nine after Kyle Kendrick pitched them to victory June 1 –

right around the time the Minnesota Twins began their current

surge.

Much has changed for the Phillies since.

Kendrick takes the hill looking to help Philadelphia avoid a

ninth loss in 10 games when it makes its first visit to Target

Field on Tuesday night to face the Twins, who have won nine of

12.

The Phillies (29-33) sit in last place in the NL East, trying to

stay competitive with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay

injured. They lost two of three in Baltimore over the weekend,

falling 5-4 in 10 innings Sunday.

“If we can get better, we definitely will,” manager Charlie

Manuel said. “I see we’ve been losing a few games, quite a few

lately. I think we’ll win some games, of course.

“I’ve been in this place before. You got to keep going.”

Kendrick (2-5, 4.44 ERA) will look to help get the Phillies back

on track. The right-hander had gone 2-1 with a 1.65 ERA in four

starts prior to Wednesday, when he suffered a 6-5 loss to the Los

Angeles Dodgers after allowing five runs in 5 2-3 innings.

“It’s frustrating,” Kendrick said. “We have to get a win and

start something.”

Minnesota, meanwhile, has been rolling thanks to an offensive

surge.

Despite falling 8-2 to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, the Twins

(24-35) are averaging 5.1 runs during their hot stretch. Josh

Willingham hit .386 with 14 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak

that ended in the last contest, combining with Joe Mauer and Justin

Morneau to form a dangerous heart of the order.

Willingham and San Francisco’s Angel Pagan are the only players

in the majors with two separate hitting streaks of at least 12

games this season.

Kendrick has never faced Minnesota, but Willingham is 4 for 11

with a home run and a double against him.

“I like to be able to print pretty much the same lineup,”

manager Ron Gardenhire told the team’s official website. “It’s a

nice thing. And if you take a guy like Mauer out, you can move

Willingham and Morneau up. It’s a pretty good situation to have.

We’ve got a good flow going.”

Gardenhire hopes Nick Blackburn can develop some consistency of

his own.

Blackburn (2-4, 7.75) missed roughly three weeks with a strained

left quad, but he returned Wednesday and allowed two runs in five

innings of a 4-2 win over Kansas City.

The right-hander gave up at least five runs in five of his first

seven starts.

“We need to see that, we need him to step up,” Gardenhire said.

“He’s supposed to be one of our big starters, and we need him to

start eating up innings and winning ballgames for us. That’ll help

us get on the right track ourselves.”

Blackburn had one of the worst outings of his career in his only

start against Philadelphia, giving up a career worst-tying eight

runs while walking three in 1 2-3 innings of a 9-5 defeat June 18,

2010.

Former Twin Jim Thome is 7 for 24 (.292) with two homers and two

doubles when facing Blackburn.