Friday, December 26, 2014

U.S.S. Howard

Charlie Manuel calls Ryan Howard a carrier. Yeah, that sounds about right.

U.S.S. Howard

Ryan Howard hits his game-winning homer in the eighth inning to beat the Braves.
Ryan Howard hits his game-winning homer in the eighth inning to beat the Braves. JOHN AMIS / Associated Press

Charlie Manuel called Ryan Howard a "carrier" last night at Turner Field.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

"He's a carrier," Manuel said. "When I was in Cleveland, we had more than one carrier. He is our carrier. He's the guy that puts up the big numbers. He's the guy that knocks in 130 to 160 RBIs. He's the guy that's big in the moment."

Howard came up big in the moment last night in an 8-7 victory over the Braves at Turner Field, which gave the Phillies a half-game lead over the Mets in the National League East with 11 games to play. He hit a two-out, two-run homer to left field in the eighth inning to win it.

In 19 games since Aug. 26, Howard is hitting .403 (29 for 72) with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs. He has more homers and RBIs than any player in baseball in that span. He is ninth in batting average, eighth in on-base percentage (.469) and first in slugging percentage (.958). And here's something also noteworthy: he ranks 42nd in baseball with just 16 strikeouts.

Do I think Howard can be NL MVP?

Howard, who went 4 for 5 last night, leads baseball with 45 homers and 136 RBIs. That's huge. But he is hitting .249 for the season. That could hurt him in the eyes of voters that don't see him play every day. They might not be aware just how hot he has been. But I think if Howard maintains this pace and carries the Phillies into the postseason, his candidacy will continue to build steam and he could become a Top 3 candidate.

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Jim Salisbury writes about the remarkable opportunity the Phillies have in front of them.

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In the Phillies Notebook: more on J.A. Happ's start tonight. And more on Kyle Kendrick's struggles and Ned Yost getting fired.

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Think Howard might get pitched around a little more? Pat Burrell went 0 for 5 last night  with five strikeouts. He is hitting .147 (11 for 75) with one homer and four RBIs in 19 games since Aug. 24. His .147 average is the worst in the National League and second-worst in baseball (Chicago White Sox outfielder Nick Swisher is hitting .121) in that span.

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Matt Gelb Inquirer Staff Writer
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