DENVER -- Kyle Kendrick says he's ready to head back to the bullpen. He certainly looked sharp enough to start Tuesday night.
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Kendrick (6-5) yielded four hits, struck out a career-high seven and walked two in his longest outing in 11 starts this season. He threw a career-high 117 pitches and didn't allow a runner past second base in leading the Phillies to their fifth consecutive victory.
His reward? A seat in the bullpen when Roy Oswalt returns to the rotation this weekend.
"It is what it is," Kendrick said. "Everyone knows I can start. Oswalt coming back is going to make us better."
Oswalt has been out since late June with a bad back and Kendrick has taken on the starting role in his absence. His victory Tuesday was only his third as a starter, and he did it with best performance since throwing a complete game against Pittsburgh on July 3, 2010.
"KK was very good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "This would rank up there with his best outing."
Kendrick agreed -- to a point.
"Results-wise, yeah," he said. "My changeup wasn't very good tonight but my cutter and fastball were pretty good."
The Phillies, meanwhile, got off to a fast start against Aaron Cook, who pitched four innings before leaving with muscle spasms in his neck.
Philadelphia tacked on two more in the fourth. Howard led off with a drive to the facing of the second deck in right-center. One out later, Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco hit consecutive singles and Brian Schneider had a sacrifice fly.
"It felt pretty good off the bat," Howard said of his 432-foot homer. "It started middle in and it ran back over the plate."
Cook (2-6) gave up five hits, struck out two and walked one.
"When you get the lead and add two more on that's what really helps," Manuel said. "Two runs in this yard doesn't hold up a lot."
Howard led off the eighth with a drive to left against Matt Lindstrom for his 23rd home run.
David Herndon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to finish the shutout.
The Rockies had very few chances against Kendrick and failed to capitalize on any of them. They had two runners on in the first but Seth Smith looked at strike three to end the threat. Eric Young Jr. and Chris Iannetta reached second base in the third and fifth, respectively, but were stranded there.
"He used his cutter very effectively," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "He was cutting the ball in on the left-handed hitters. He was throwing the front door cutter to some of our right-handed hitters."
Now he gladly moves back to the bullpen, where he is 2-2 with a 2.49 ERA in 15 appearances.
"That's KK38. He's changing on the fly," Howard said. "He's done everything they've ever asked him to do -- come from the bullpen, start, spot start, he's never complained about it."
- Howard has two multihomer games this season and 27 for his career. His last multihomer game was April 29 against the Mets.
- Phillies ace Roy Halladay will start Wednesday's series finale against Jason Hammel. Halladay, who is from Arvada, Colo., made his first start at Coors Field on May 12, 2010, and got a no-decision. He is 2-0 with a 0.77 ERA in three career starts against the Rockies. Hammel is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three career appearances against Philadelphia, two of them starts.
- Pence has at least one hit in each of his four games with the Phillies since being acquired Friday from Houston.