ATLANTA -- With Kyle Kendrick still unable to figure out the first inning, the Braves' best opportunity to jump on the Phillies' right-hander will come early as they look to take the rubber match at Turner Field on Sunday afternoon.
Kendrick, who has an 11.37 ERA (24 earned runs in 19 innings) in the first inning this season, fell victim to the opening frame again his last time out against the Nationals. A three-run homer by Jason Werth -- the seventh first-inning blast Kendrick has allowed -- gave Washington a lead it would not relinquish.
Kendrick has tried a variety of different approaches to overcome his first-inning woes. He's warmed up earlier, he's warmed up later and he's experimented with the number of pitches he throws pregame. Nothing has worked. It hasn't been a mental thing, either -- Kendrick said he felt "great" in the early stages of his last start.
"It's hard to pinpoint," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said of Kendrick's struggles in the first. "It's been addressed and talked about. He's experimented with things. He gets away from his fastball and gets into the secondary pitches. ... It's a tough start right off the bat when the first time up, they get three."
However, Kendrick has gotten better in his starts as the game progresses. Opposing batters are hitting .303 in their first plate appearances against Kendrick, but in their second and third appearances, they are hitting .256 and .259, respectively.
Alex Wood will take the hill opposite Kendrick for the series finale, and Atlanta's starter has shown a similar progression in games he has started.
In the first three innings, Wood has a 3.82 ERA this season. From there, he has buckled down, and in innings four through six, he owns a 3.12 ERA. Wood has been effective overall, posting a 6-7 record with a 3.36 ERA and a 82-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The 23-year-old has thrown 85 2/3 innings, putting him halfway to the tentative 170-inning limit the Braves have set for him.
"I've never really looked too much into the whole innings thing," Wood said. "I want to throw as much as I can and help the team any way I can. It just so happens that me going to the bullpen limited my innings a little bit and will probably keep me on pace to right where they want me, so it'll end up working out nicely."
Braves: Healthy Gattis may be back Monday
Evan Gattis (back) remains on track for a potential Monday return after catching five innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday night.
Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker has been in close contact with Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez since Gattis began his rehab assignment on Thursday. Gattis was hitless in six at-bats entering Saturday, but he is gradually adjusting to game speed after missing more than three weeks.
"Evan told Brian that his timing has gotten better, feels better every time he goes out there," Gonzalez said. "I think we'll make a decision on Sunday afternoon for him to be up here Monday."
Gattis batted second on Saturday night in an effort to get as many at-bats as possible. He only made it to the plate twice in his five innings on Friday while batting in the cleanup spot.
"Don't be asking him to bunt or hit-and-run; I don't know if he can do that," Gonzalez joked. "He's just trying to get as many as-bats as he can in six or seven innings, which is a good idea. It's a great idea."
Phillies: Lee ready to return for home series on Monday
Though Cliff Lee would have liked to have started on Saturday on his regular five days' rest, the team chose to push him back two days. He hasn't started since May 18.
"Just to keep everybody on seven days' rest," said Sandberg. "So he'll get an extra two like everybody else. Otherwise, it would have pushed [Cole] Hamels back to nine. So it keeps everybody somewhat on pace."
One benefit of his pushed-back start is that he is 5-0 with a 0.88 ERA in six career starts vs. the Giants, who the Phillies play at home on Monday.
Of course, Lee is hoping to continue that trend, while ignoring his final rehab start, in which he allowed eight runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. That is now something about which he can sit back and laugh.
"Everything happened," Lee said, breaking into a smile. "It was a weird game. There's no rhyme or reason for anything. They swung the bat and hit a lot of balls. I felt fine. I feel good. I'm ready to go."
• Braves left-hander Jonny Venters threw for the first time on Friday since he received a platelet-rich plasma injection in early June. He also threw on Saturday, a workout consisting of 20-25 throws from 60 feet.
There remains no timetable for a return, as the southpaw is taking it day by day.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.