PHILADELPHIA -- Kyle Kendrick has pitched so well lately that a couple of weekends ago in Atlanta, Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels stood atop a wobbly chair and replaced the nameplate above Kendrick's locker in the visitors' clubhouse at Turner Field.
Old nameplate: Kendrick 38.
New nameplate: Ace 38.
Kendrick is a big reason why the Phillies find themselves on the periphery of the National League Wild Card race with 21 games to play. He allowed two hits, one run and three walks and struck out a career-high eight in seven innings in Monday's 3-1 victory over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies have won five consecutive games for the first time since they won six straight May 13-18, and they have won 13 of their last 17 games to improve to 70-71. It is the first time they have been one game under .500 since June 5. They are 5 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card spot.
Things are getting interesting.
Did manager Charlie Manuel think the Phillies could get back to .500 after being 14 under on July 13?
"Yeah, I did," Manuel said. "I think somewhere along the line, you do play good baseball during the season. Really good. If you stay with it, I think you'll hit streaks. I think baseball is streaks. If you haven't hit one during the season and you've got one coming ... if you do it at the end of the season, it can be real rewarding."
Kendrick is helping in a big way. He is 5-1 with a 1.49 ERA (seven earned runs in 42 1/3 innings) in his last six starts, and 7-2 with a 2.34 ERA (15 earned runs in 57 2/3 innings) in 15 appearances since the All-Star break. He retired the first seven batters he faced Monday before walking Rob Brantly with one out in the third inning. He did not allow a hit until Brantly singled to center field to lead off the sixth.
Kendrick (9-10, 3.83 ERA) loaded the bases, but struck out Giancarlo Stanton swinging on a 1-2 changeup to end the inning.
"Tonight, it was an out pitch," Kendrick said of his changeup.
And that made it an easy decision to throw it to Stanton.
"Oh, yeah," the righty said. "He chases. He'll swing at stuff down. You've got to keep it out of the middle of the plate with him. I wanted to just bury it, and he went after it."
"He has to have a lot of confidence, obviously, in his pitches, in his ability to locate, to throw any pitch in any count," Marlins third baseman Greg Dobbs said of Kendrick. "I think you're just seeing the development of a very talented pitcher.
"I think he's always had [the changeup], but I think now though he's learned to control it. I think he's learned how to throw it to where it looks like a strike, and then it's not or it's a borderline to where you feel you can't take it because the umpire may call it a strike. He's developed a lot more command of that pitch, and that's why it's been a very successful pitch for him."
Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown hit a two-run home run to right in the fifth inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was Brown's second homer of the season, and his first since Aug. 22. The Phillies added their third run in the fifth when Michael Martinez hustled for a double, advanced to third on a fielder's choice and hustled home on a wild pitch to make it 3-0.
"I think I'm just learning how to hit a little bit," Brown said. "I'm just getting comfortable out there. I think the more I get comfortable, the more power numbers you guys will start seeing. I know that I can do it. It's just a matter of getting comfortable, getting settled in and getting a pitch to hit."
Kendrick and the Phillies' bullpen handled the rest.
Before the game, Manuel said 85 wins might be enough to clinch a Wild Card spot. If that is the case, the Phillies would need to finish 15-6 (.714). They have been playing at a better pace than that over their last 17 games.
"I don't even like to put numbers on it," Manuel said. "I like to go day by day. That's what I like. That's kind of how I like to play. We might win all 21 of them."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.