MLB: NL Division Leaders do Battle Again

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The Philadelphia Phillies announced earlier this week that Kyle Kendrick will stay in the rotation despite struggling mightily in four of his five starts. Facing the St. Louis Cardinals might give him a good chance to make that decision look like a wise one. Kendrick looks to shake off his early issues and improve to 4-0 against the Cardinals on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park as the two NL division leaders continue their four-game series. St. Louis is actually the favorite though according to Sportsbook.com, priced at -120.

Kendrick (0-1, 7.61 ERA, 1.648 WHIP) has one outstanding start to his credit, pitching eight shutout innings at Atlanta on April 20, but his other four have been rather forgettable. The right-hander has an 11.49 ERA in those games, yielding six homers in 15 2/3 innings.

He gave up four runs on three homers over five innings Friday in a 9-1 loss to the New York Mets, but on Sunday, manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee said they don't plan to remove Kendrick from the rotation.

"You've got somebody down in (Triple-A) Lehigh who's pitching better right now?" Dubee told the Phillies' official website. "Right now, we think Kyle will get straightened out. And I don't know we have a whole lot of other candidates. We need Kyle to step up. We need him to be more efficient." Off last night's victory, Kendrick and the Phils are 20-4 OVER after a win.

Keeping him in to face the Cardinals (18-9, +6.1 units) might prove to be a good move. Kendrick is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three career starts versus St. Louis - none since June 2008 - and he's 9-2 lifetime against the NL Central leaders.

It was an extra-inning homer that ended Tuesday's pitcher's duel and allowed Philadelphia (15-11, +0.2) to even the series at one. After a fan ran on the Citizens Bank Park field for a second straight game and St. Louis tied the score at 1-all in the ninth, Carlos Ruiz's leadoff blast in the bottom of the 10th gave the Phillies a 2-1 win. St. Louis is 11-2 in road games revenging a one run loss.

Brad Penny (3-1, 1.56, 1.183) has certainly done his part to make the Cardinals' rotation the best in baseball. After allowing three earned runs in his first four starts, though, Penny struggled with his control Friday against Cincinnati. He walked five and allowed eight hits and three runs over six innings in a 3-2 loss to the Reds.

"I've got to make better pitches," said Penny, whose 4-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his last five starts against the Phillies. "I wasn't keeping the ball down." He is 43-18 UNDER in road contests vs. NL teams scoring 4.8 or more runs a game in his career. (Team's Record)

Sportsbook.com has St. Louis as -120 money line favorites with total at Ov10 for this ESPN telecast that has 7:00 Eastern start time. The Redbirds have won seven of last eight as favorites and are 7-1 off a loss in 2010.

The Phillies appreciate solid pitching and are 70-39 after permitting two runs or less over the last three seasons and are 8-1 at home against right-hand starters.  Philadelphia will try to continue to have the upper hand over the Cardinals, seeking eighth win in last 10 tries.

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