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Blastoff! Howard’s Two Bombs Fuel Phils In Rout

Open letters seem to work.

Ryan Howard responded to a day of criticism across the blogosphere with three hits — two home runs and a double — and four RBI to lead a 12-2 win over the Nationals. Howard went 3-for-5, also scoring a walk and a strikeout. His performance was balanced nicely by a slew of others. Shane Victorino went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBI, one coming on a single that Dmitri Young failed to close out. When the ball fell into the Nationals’ dugout, two more scored.

The error was part of an eight-run sixth that saw the Phils bring 13 batters to the plate, capped off by Howard’s second homer, an absolute bomb to center field. His first was an even bigger bomb into right.

It’s great to see Howard put up three big hits, including the opposite-field double to score the evening’s first run. His average is now at .195 and his HR and RBI totals are at good levels (12 and 29). Here’s hoping the strong effort continues.

Meanwhile, Pedro Feliz had three hits including a homer off Matt Chico, showing yet again he can kill lefties. Chico, by the way, surrendered four runs in five innings. Six of the Phils’ eight runs in the sixth were charged to Jesus Colome. For the Phils, Jamie Moyer pitched a good six innings, letting nothing home despite scattering a bunch of hits. Clay Condrey finished the game and, of course, gave up two runs in the process. Under bogus Major League Baseball rules, Condrey collected his first save of the year.

Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley collected two hits, each with a double, and Chris Coste had two singles. Jayson Werth and Pat Burrell brought up the rear with 0-for nights. No big deal — when Howard hits, the offense is light years better than the version we’ve been seeing lately. Another great statistic: seven walks — when this team watches pitches they become infinitely more dangerous. And against lefties this team is now raking. At this point it doesn’t matter whether a manager throws a lefty at the Phils; more often they’ll find a way to beat him. Especially if the big man is on his game.

I won’t say Howard is back or any of that junk — Howard said in the post-game he’s taking things one at bat at a time. That’s the best way to go about things, and we should do so, too. Howard’s swing looked fantastic tonight, but we can’t forget how horrendous it looked yesterday. Time will definitely tell where he’s at. Meanwhile it was good to see the Phils tee off on a suspect Nationals’ pitching staff after being dominated by the same guys. It was high time the Phils had to put the Nats in their place — hopefully this sets off a run against bottom-feeding teams. Next up: the overachieving Astros.

Associated Press photo

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