Ryan Howard has teased us a few times this season with mammoth home runs that we thought would lift him out of a season-long funk. Inevitably, he always seemed to regress to an 0-for-4, two strikeout performance as his batting average continued to hover around .200. But finally, it looks like it’s Howard’s turn to take some deep cuts.
The two strikeouts from last night’s game are much easier to deal with when you see two opposite field home runs and a triple in the box score. All of the sudden, Howard is tied with Chase Utley for the league lead in RBI with 62, while Howard’s 19 home runs are quickly reeling in his more consistent teammate. That unsightly batting average has crept up to .224, not too far from respectability. More importantly, round one of this potential World Series preview against the Red Sox goes to the Phillies as they maintain a three-game lead over those pesky Marlins.
Ryan Howard is doing what he was doing during his MVP season. He’s waiting on pitches, driving fastballs to left field and turning on offspeed offerings. Although he seems like a lock to break his own season strikeout record, Howard is also being more selective at the plate instead of trying to justify his $10 million salary with every at-bat. Heck, he even stole a base.
Fortunately for the Phillies, Howard has gotten hot as the Fightins endure a particularly brutal part of the June schedule, which includes games against Florida, Atlanta, St. Louis, Boston, Oakland and the L.A. Angels.
Maybe it’s the comfort of being in first place. Maybe it’s the realization that the Phillies are operating on all cylinders and he can just relax. Maybe it's the ever-patient, even-keeled Charlie Manuel, who never lost confidence in his stud first baseman. Maybe it was the luxury of sleeping in his own bed when the Phillies visited St. Louis over the weekend that led to six hits and nine RBI in that series. Maybe it’s just time for one of baseball’s most dangerous sluggers to get hot. No player in baseball can carry a team’s offense any better than Ryan Howard. Now it appears to be Howard’s turn, so enjoy the deep cuts.
This article is meant to celebrate Ryan Howard’s turnaround, but I have to get this off my chest. Yes, I hate the Mets, and I hate them even more after the way they’ve handled the dismissal of Willie Randolph. Shame on Mets brass for dragging out this process for so long and waiting to fire Randolph until they were on the West Coast. I’m not saying the termination was unjustified, but show a little class. Looks like the team's play on the field is more of a reflection of ownership and upper management, not Willie Randolph.