The Philadelphia Phillies fell to the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday night, but Spencer Howard, the organization’s top pitching prospect, gave fans a reason to head to bed happy.
Howard took the mound for Double-A Reading in Game 1 of the Eastern League Divisional Series on Wednesday night against the Trenton Thunder. Howard came out pumping strikes, striking out five of the first eight batters he faced, topping out at 98 mph.
The Fightin Phils built a 3-0 lead going into the sixth inning, and by this time, Howard had still not allowed a hit. Howard would lose his no-hitter with one out in the sixth, and the Thunder would push a run across the plate in the inning.
Still, Howard would cap off his night with a strikeout of Isiah Gilliam, his 12th punch-out of the night. Howard’s final line was seven innings, two hits, two walks, one earned run and 12 strikeouts on 99 pitches. He left the game with a 3-1 lead:
Spencer Howard 7IP 1ER 2H 12K 090519 pic.twitter.com/V0uLTs3EDT
— PHI Prospect BurnerAcct (@PBurneracct) September 5, 2019
The Fightins bullpen imploded in the eighth, giving up three runs, spoiling Howard’s great night. The Reading offense couldn’t muster any offense with their last six outs, as they dropped game one, 4-3.
Still, the takeaway from an organizational perspective has to be how well Howard performed in a postseason start, albeit at the Double-A level. Howard is no stranger to the spotlight – you may recall he threw a no-hitter for High-A Clearwater in the playoffs last season.
Howard, 23, had a 2.03 ERA in 15 regular season starts split with the GCL Phillies, Single-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. In all likelihood, efforts to manipulate Howard’s service time will lead to him starting the 2020 season at Triple-A. But the expectation is that he’ll play a major role in the Phillies rotation as early as next summer.
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