All it takes is one…
Take two and hit it to the opposite field…
The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers…
Oh yes, the three-run homer. Is there anything it can’t cure? It’s like penicillin or chicken soup, and oftentimes it just takes one to make everything feel better. Knowing how troubled the Phillies’ offense has been this season, it seemed as if a little three-run homer for the soul is exactly what the team needed.
Actually, if it were Ryan Howard to provide some of the medicine, even better.
Ryan Howard and home runs have kind of been strangers lately. In fact, Howard hadn’t hit a homer since July 27, a span of 13 games. Add in the 16 games he missed because of his injured ankle, and it seemed like forever since The Big Piece hit a homer. Worse, the homer drought was sort of a microcosm of his post-DL production. Going just 4-for-36 with no extra-base hits, one RBI and 16 strikeouts was just as ugly to watch as it was to read.
“You see it. If you watch the games you can see I’m not comfortable in the box. I’m just trying to get it back, get a good pitch to hit and go from there,” Howard said last week. “It’s tough when you’re on the DL and you get out of that rhythm it’s kind of like going back to spring training all over again.”
Apparently, the problem was nothing more than finding that rhythm. Knowing that Howard and Chase Utley were like bombs waiting to explode, manager Charlie Manuel may have put his guys back into the lineup sooner than he should have. But that’s the thing about explosives—there’s a lot of patience involved. You have to wait for the reward. Obviously, Manuel was willing to put up with the bad in order to get to the good.
“We wanted them back, but the people who saw them play [said they were ready] and they wanted them to come back,” Manuel said. “If we would have left them down there longer and let them get a few at-bats, yeah, they would have benefited from it. But where we were at, we wanted them back when they were healthy.”
Clearly it has to be a little more than a coincidence that the Phillies scored eight runs in a game where Howard belted a three-run homer. Truth is the Phillies hadn’t scored more than eight runs in a game in two weeks until The Big Piece hit his three-run bomb to left-center field on Tuesday night. Better yet, Howard’s homer was followed by a long double in Wednesday’s finale and five more runs to take two out of three against the Dodgers.
“I wasn’t happy about hitting a home run,” Howard said. “I was just happy to get a hit.”
Looking for something to highlight for the moment when the Phillies got it going? It just might turn out to be the Aug. 31 game at Dodger Stadium where Howard hit that three-run homer. In the two winning games against the Dodgers, the Phillies scored 13 runs which is nearly as many as they scored in the six previous games.
Howard hit the long ones and Utley… well, he just hit. Certainly that was a welcomed change considering the other big bat in the middle of the order went 5-for-9 in the two games against the Dodgers with three doubles in Wednesday’s finale. A 5-for-9 offsets a 2-for-21 jag pretty nicely.
“When we’re clicking it seems like everyone wants to hit with him,” Manuel said. “Like if Howard and Utley are hitting, everyone else does too. They want to be along with it.”
The good part about that is it’s time to hit. The Phillies have been winning games despite their offense. It’s almost as if the pitching staff has decided to carry the load alone since there has been so little help from the hitters.
Howard is a monster in September. In exactly a season’s worth of September games—162 in the month during his career—heading into Wednesday’s tilt, Howard has clubbed 52 homers and picked up 141 RBIs to go with a .314 batting average. When other plays slow down as the season dwindles, the big man heats up. With the benefit of 16 extra days off, Howard should be quite ready if he has his mojo working.
And maybe that will be the tonic for Utley, too. Notoriously a slow finisher, partially because he has played through injuries, Utley has the benefit of 46 games off. Time spent on the disabled list should rejuvenate Utley down the stretch for a change, which was the silver lining when the injuries hit.
So now that the offense is hitting back, it’s just a matter of the Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt maintaining to the finish line. Oh yes, that’s the first part of the perfect remedy. If the three-run homer is the chicken soup, the pitching is what ties it together.
The chicken soup might make the Phillies feel better, but they can’t survive without H2O.