Kyle Kendrick is hoping his best start of the season is a sign he can make a strong finish to a mostly disappointing 2014 and set the foundation for a better 2015.
Kendrick allowed only three hits in seven scoreless innings, Carlos Ruiz homered and drove in two runs, and the Philadelphia Phillies shut out the struggling Atlanta Braves 4-0 on Tuesday night.
"That was his best game by far," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg of Kendrick, who began the night with a 4.97 ERA.
One day after Cole Hamels and three relievers threw the first combined no-hitter in Phillies history, Kendrick (8-11) and relievers Ken Giles and Antonio Bastardo were dominant in the three-hit shutout.
The Braves, determined to bounce back from the no-hitter, began taking batting practice before the game with rain still coming down on Turner Field. Kendrick said that was a sure sign Atlanta's hitters would have aggressive at-bats.
Kendrick's strategy was to get ahead in counts, including in a key strikeout of Evan Gattis with the bases loaded in the first inning.
"He's pretty aggressive," Kendrick said. "I was trying not to miss over the plate."
Gattis struck out while chasing a pitch in the dirt. Kendrick then struck out Chris Johnson to end the inning.
The Braves, who began the night 1 1/2 games behind the NL wild-card leaders, have lost three of four. Each of the three losses was a shutout.
"We're a talented club offensively," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "A very talented club. We can put up numbers offensively. And to get shut out back to back days and three out of four days and only score one run ... it's mind-boggling."
The Braves haven't scored in 24 consecutive innings. Their only run in their last 36 innings was a homer by Evan Gattis in a 1-0 win over the Marlins on Sunday.
"It's not real pretty to watch right now," Gonzalez said.
Jason Heyward had two doubles. Atlanta's only other hit was a third-inning single by Andrelton Simmons.
Bastardo struck out the side in the ninth.
Kendrick, who began the night with a 4.97 ERA, had four strikeouts and two walks while winning his third straight start. It was his first start without allowing a run since throwing 6 2-3 scoreless innings in a 9-0 win over Colorado on May 26.
Ruiz led off the fifth with line-drive homer into the left-field seats off Mike Minor (6-9). Darrin Ruf's run-scoring single in the sixth drove in Ben Revere for a 2-0 lead. Ruiz doubled in a run in the eighth.
Minor allowed three runs on seven hits in 7 1-3 innings.
Ben Revere led off the sixth with his second single. He quickly advanced on his second stolen base of the game and, with two outs, moved to third on a wild pitch. Ruf drove in Revere with a single to right field for a 2-0 lead.
Upton left the game in the sixth inning with bruised left triceps. Ryan Doumit took over in left field. Upton, who leads the team with 26 homers and 91 RBIs, was hit by a pitch from Kendrick on the left arm in the first inning.
The Braves said Upton's status is day to day.
DEBUT FOR FRANCO
Phillies third baseman Mikael Franco was 0-for-3 with a RBI in his much-anticipated major league debut. His fly ball to center field in the eighth drove in Ruf. "A real nice at-bat," Sandberg said.
THIS IS OUR TOWN
The Phillies are only 7-8 against the Braves, but they are 6-2 in Atlanta and on Wednesday will try to complete their second three-game sweep of the season at Turner Field. The Phillies won three straight in Atlanta June 16-18.