Analysis

"No Panic" Says Howard; But He'd Better Start

Twitter and facebook were abuzz after last night’s win due to the fact that Roy Halladay removed his right groin after the second inning, inserted the sutures himself, wrapped the gauze, then fired off four more innings en route to a Phillies victory.

Maybe he didn’t do all that, but it felt like it. Lost in the aftermath of GroinGate, or whatever you want to call it, was Ryan Howard’s putrid performance. Not only was he 0-for-4 at the plate with three strikeouts, his glove failed him again, too.

In the fifth inning, Howard tried to “ole!” a ball hit to his left, in between he and the first base bag. The ball popped loose from his mitt and ricocheted away, allowing Andres Torres to reach base. Luckily, the inning ended two batters later with runners at first and third as Aubrey Huff weakly grounded out in front of catcher Carlos Ruiz. A possible situation was averted.

With his bat, Howard has been downright frightful. Zero. That’s the total number of RBI for Howard this postseason. Let that sink in. Zero. For a guy that has averaged 138 RBI per 162 games during the regular season over the past five seasons, it’s incomprehensible that his RBI count hasn’t gotten off the ground. Not even once, by accident. It’s startling, to be honest.

It’s also part of the reason why the Phillies are in a 3-games-to-2 hole with the Giants. Their big bats have not responded to the Giants pitching, however potent their staff may be. It all starts with their $125 million man.

Howard will have to pull his weight starting tonight. He’s been given a healthy dose of off-speed pitches, sure, but he should be somewhat used to that by now.

Here’s how his at-bats went down last night:

1st AB, 2nd inning: curveball, changeup, changeup, changeup, changeup, changeup. = Strikeout

2nd AB, 3rd inning: changeup, changeup, fastball (fouled), changeup. = Strikeout

3rd AB, 6th inning: slider, slider, changeup, fastball (ball), slider. = Strikeout

4th AB, 8th inning (against left Lopez): fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball. = Flyout to LF

Howard was given just two fastballs before the eighth inning. During his first two at-bats which ended in strikeouts, Howard swung and missed at breaking balls down and out of the zone. In his third at-bat, he was given a borderline slider that he foul tipped into the mitt of Buster Posey. In two strike counts, he isn’t getting much to work with.

Patience has been the key to this series, but Howard hasn’t shown much of it. “No Panic” has been Howard’s mantra, but try telling that to the masses. He’ll need to lead the way in the patience category tomorrow night against tough lefty Jonathan Sanchez, whom the Phillies have hit recently. To be frank, The Big Piece needs to show up in a big way.

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