The Phillies managed to salvage a single game from the Wild-Card leading Padres this weekend as the offensive arose from their recent slumber en route to a 14-2 victory. The drubbing was led by Ryan Howard who hit his 35th homer and collected his 103th RBI (tops in the NL). With the Phillies bullpen in the shape it currently is, this was a much needed contribution by Ryan Howard. As I touched upon briefly in the most recent radio interview and as regular commenter Greg noted, only Ryan Howard can carry this team to the playoffs.
Fortunately Howard has been building a reputation of coming on strong towards the end of the season. Last season he batted .387 in September, and the year before he hit 11 home runs that same month. All season he has been battling strikeouts, amassing 152 coming into Sunday. However in the past six games, he has struck out just 3 times, including going without a K in 4 of those games. He must continue that positive trend this week with the Mets in town.
Another reason why Ryan should carry this team down the stretch is that it’s a contract year for him. Back in January he felt slighted as he watched Chase Utley signed a $85 million deal and he got a paltry $900,000. Yet, Ryan Howard isn’t the kind of guy that would be jealous of Chase in this situation, rather he would become motivated by the oportunity to prove a point – that he is a career home run hitter. All indications from the Phillies front office last off-season seemed to center on the idea that if Ryan stayed healthy and continued to produce, he would become a wealthy man. But all money issues aside, a resurgant Ryan Howard is maybe the only thing that can save this season.