Ryan Howard in September:
14 games, .396 batting average, 8 home runs, 22 RBI.
He did it again last night, with a two-run, eighth-inning homer that gave the Phillies their winning margin in an 8-7 victory over the Atlanta Braves. It was the win that vaulted them back into first place in the National League East. It will again stir talk that Howard at least deserves to be in the NL's most valuable player conversation. If the Phils hang on and win the division, how could he not?
Earlier today on "Daily News Live," Ken Rosenthal -- the baseball guy for Fox sports, in all of its various multimedia flavors -- said he didn't think Howard deserved it because his batting average and on-base percentage are so low. Rosenthal likes Albert Pujols, even though his St. Louis team isn't likely to make the post-season. That's all fair enough. He looks at this thing from a national perspective and we all might be too close to what Howard is doing.
But, even with everything, Howard's power numbers are real and his impact on this team is enormous. With the Mets already having lost to Washington, the game against the Braves was a huge one in both the standings and in the keep-the-pressure-on-the-Mets column. For Howard to bring them from behind in the top of the eighth with one swing was like an electroshock.
And this is his time. That was his 41st career home run in September, the most for any month of the season, and his 100th career RBI in September (tied for the most with August). The regular-season homers go like this, career-wise: March/April: 13, May: 30, June: 24, July: 33, August: 33, September/October: 41.
It is hard to shrug off when you see it every night. At the time of the year when it matters the most, it is hard to get hung up on strikeouts or on-base percentage when you see another ball launched into the September night.