Take a look at this photo. This is not a force that should be associated with a .520 ballclub. (AP Photo)
Ryan Howard's three-run homer broke open an 11-2 laugher against the Nationals last night. Maybe it will break open the shell the Phillies have climbed inside this season. In front of 33,000 strong, the Phils smoked the Nationals. And they should smoke the Nationals.
They could, and should, do this more.
How much does Ryan Howard like hitting fifth? In his abbreviated duty batting behind Burrell and ahead of the center fielder, Howard has established himself as the best No. 5 hitter in the National League. In 98 at bats from that slot, he has racked up a league-best 31 RBIs and 11 home runs. In total, he ranks second in the NL in homers (18) second in RBIs (47) and third in slugging (.624).
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is his growing success against left-handed pitching. Because of this, his strikeouts haven’t been all that bad. 47 ranks 10th in the NL.
David Bell has taken more hacks from the No. 7 hole than any hitter in the National League this season (131 ABs). That’s 23 more than No. 2, Johnny Estrada.
Bell’s production from that slot has been a nice bonus. Eighteen RBIs is second only to Estrada (27) in the NL. He leads all NL seven-hitters with 4 homers and 15 runs scored.
Bell’s line stands at .270/.333/.409. That’s basically double what the next guy on the depth chart has done. What's his name ... something Diaz? Lopez? Meh. Doesn't matter.
Back together again
Before Jon Lieber injured himself fielding a ground ball, I wanted to post yesterday on how all the regulars are back in the lineup. Aaron Rowand is back, stinging the ball and chasing down drives over his head. Mike Lieberthal is back. Cole Hamels is coming back. With the exception of one or two, the 25-man roster is comprised of people that belong.
So now that summer is here, it’s time for the Phils to turn on the burners. They’re better than a .520 team. Now go prove it. They’ve flittered away too many chances to win games, including five to the Brewers alone. They don’t have the pitching, but the way Howard, and Chase Utley, and the rest of the offense is producing, they should be generating more results like last night. They buried the Nationals. And they should bury the Nationals.
L.A., Wheels, Harry, Scott, bust out the Hawaiian shirts. It’s gonna be a hot one.