PHILADELPHIA -- During the Phillies' late-season surge, their starting pitching has performed among the best in the Major Leagues. Kyle Kendrick has been a big part of that.
The right-hander is 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA over his last eight starts, and he's lasted almost seven innings per outing. He bounced back from a sub-par outing in Houston with 6 2/3 innings of two-run baseball in Friday night's 6-2 win over the Braves.
"I'm confident in what I have when I'm out there and who I am right now and what kind of pitcher I am," he said afterward. "I feel like my stuff's gotten better. Guys are going to have bad games. You've just got to bounce back and stay with it and try not to do anything too different."
He's been so impressive that Atlanta's Freddie Freeman said after Friday's game that somebody said "it was like facing a new pitcher." A large part of that could probably be attributed to Kendrick's improved changeup, which he threw 37 percent of the time on Friday. Conversely, when he struggled in a loss to the Braves on July 8, he used his changeup only 25 percent of the time and relied more on his cutter.
"He kept us off balance and threw a lot more changeups than he usually does against us," Freeman said. "Usually we get a lot of front-door cutters and backdoor cutters. He kind of went away from that game and threw a lot of changeups."
One win away from tying a career best and already having set a career high with 111 strikeouts, Kendrick will likely get two more starts before season's end.
"He's pitched real good for us," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's kind of in a streak right now where he's thrown good pitches. He's thrown strikes, but at the same time, his command is so good that he can sell the hitter on swinging out of the strike zone, especially on his changeup and cutter."
Ryan Howard, who has a home run in four consecutive games, became just the second Phillie all-time to hit 300 for his career after tagging Atlanta's Mike Minor in the fourth inning Saturday. Chase Utley was one away from becoming the first Phillies second baseman to record 200 career home runs.
Friday night marked the 47th time Utley and Howard homered in the same game. The Phillies have won 35 of those contests. It's the most times two teammates have homered in the same game since the start of the 2005 season.
Jimmy Rollins had hit safely in 16 of the last 19 games, and led the National League with 18 runs scored in September. His seven home runs this month trailed only the Padres' Chase Headley and the Brewers' Rickie Weeks.
Juan Pierre was hitting .458 (22-for-48) over his last 16 games. He was in the lineup against a left-handed pitcher (Atlanta's Mike Minor) on Saturday for the first time since Sept. 7.
New Sixers center Andrew Bynum is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Braves.
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.