The Phillies answered yesterday’s challenge with four doubles, a triple and a homer, giving Vicente Padilla all the run support he needed in a 10-2 rout of the Giants.
As reported yesterday, the Phils entered Tuesday night's contest with a league-worst 340 extra-base hits and 200 doubles, in desperate need of a spark.
They found it in the massive 6-4 frame of Ryan Howard, starting his first game since Friday. Howard didn’t miss a beat, going 4-5 with 3 RBIs, including a homer, a double (inches from a homer), and for good measure, an RBI single against left-handed reliever Jason Christiansen.
There are several outspoken critics of Charlie Manuel’s benching of Howard against left-handers, including Daily News columnist Bill Conlin, who talked about the situation last evening on Daily News Live and wrote about it this morning. Conlin argues the big slugger is one of the few players with tape-measure power and should be in the lineup every game.
It’s a fair criticism since extra-base hits are the biggest crisis for this team. However, I remain skeptical Howard can deliver against southpaws. With the hit last night, he’s 5-31 on the season against LHP, with no extra-base hits. There’s one word to describe those at bats: ugly.
It's a roster-wide problem, however, and the Howard situation only detracts from the bigger issue. Good left-handers, like Noah Lowry, have dominated the Phillies all season.
Last night, it was funny how the offense grinded to a halt when left-hander Jeff Fassero replaced Tomko in the fourth. The Phils just tagged Tomko for five runs in three innings, but with Fassero on the hill, the Phils managed just one hit (Burrell) through the next three. Included in that was a bouncing strikeout to Howard.
Christiansen replaced Fassero in the seventh, but he was awful. Howard’s hit came after Christiansen ran the count full, and later on, Vicente Padilla followed with an RBI single of his own.
I’ll maintain my position on Howard, which won’t make or break a game either way against left-handers. The most you can hope for, at this point, is a fisted single through the infield. I’m still in favor of Ramon Martinez, Tomas Perez, or even Todd Pratt subbing him against left-handers and using Howard off the bench if needed. Pratt might be the best option because of his power.
But as long as the lineup is this dysfunctional against LHP, I don't see much difference. The good news is right-hander Brad Hennessey waits on deck.
Chew on that for a bit. I’ll have the rest of my game summary later on this morning.