The reigning NL MVP launched two majestic home runs off David Wells, drove in five and scored three in leading the Phils to a 12-4 win over the Padres last night.
Howard has turned his slow start into a distant memory and is starting to resemble the player who carried the club when they made their late-season charge in 2006.
In 45 games since returning from injury, he’s hitting .311 with 21 HR and 56 RBIs. He continues to be one of baseball’s most unique hitters. He’s already struck out 109 times and has only registered 79 hits – almost 30 less than Shane Victorino – yet his impact couldn’t be more striking. He’s about to catch Miguel Cabrera for the league lead in slugging (.608), and before you know it, he could overtake Chase Utley in RBI’s. He’s only two back in that category after ringing up five last night. And thanks to his 3-for-3, two-homer performance, Howard is up over 1.000 OPS for the first time since opening day.
Make no mistake: This was a huge win for the Phils. While today’s pitching matchup clearly favors Jake Peavy over J.D. Durbin, the pressure is back on the Padres to spilt the series. The Phillies have been applying pressure all series, dropping a pitchers’ duel Thursday, which could have gone either way.
After the Dodgers series and loss in Thursday’s opener, a popular comment was to project how many games the Phillies would need to win to catch the Mets if the Mets finished up playing at their first-half pace. The fact is, the Phils are playing better than the Mets, the Mets aren’t playing as well as they did earlier, and thus, the Phils have been able to slowly nibble away at their earlier lead. They trail the Mets by five games, with well over two months to go and many more meetings between them.
Drabek to undergo Tommy John surgery: Many of you have already read that 2006 first-round pick Kyle Drabek will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery and will probably be out through 2008. The surgery is scheduled for Wednesday. You could see it coming. Drabek was a hard-throwing, high-school curveball pitcher who's been out most of the season and there were signs of trouble early on. Beerleaguer All-Star, Alby, had this to say:
"Drabek's drop in status before the draft -- the element that left him on the board by the time the Phillies' turn came around -- was his attitude, not worries about overuse. What's notable to me is that Conlin called this about a year ago, soon after the kid signed and had a so-so first few starts in the minors."
Yankees acquire catcher Jose Molina for minor leaguer: This is significant because the Phillies and Yankees looked like a match for the services of Rod Barajas. The Yankees surrendered right-hander Jeff Kennard in the deal for LAA’s Molina. Clout weighed in last night:
"I'm not bothered by the Yankees getting Jose Molina. The guy they dealt, Kennard, is a non-prospect. He would not help the Phillies now or ever. So what's the point? Keep Barajas until you can get fair value. Unfortunately, due to his contract, that's unlikely so we're probably stuck with him. And if either Ruiz or Coste gets hurt, we'll be happy we were."
Game chat: The 500-pound gorilla we’ve been avoiding all week comes to life this evening as Durbin (1-2, 9.00 ERA) meets Peavy (9-4, 2.30 ERA) in one of the worst mis-matches of the season. Stranger things have happened. Remember Matt Beech and Greg Maddux?
Discuss it here, and if you’re reading this from the Philadelphia area, be sure to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather!