Sunday, February 7, 2016

Howard hits fifth, snapping 665-game streak

After an offensive explosion in Game 1, Ryne Sandberg isn't simply running out the same lineup in Game 2. Among the changes: Ryan Howard is hitting fifth for the first time in six seasons.

Howard hits fifth, snapping 665-game streak

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

ARLINGTON, Texas - For the first time in 666 straight starts, Ryan Howard will not be hitting out of the cleanup hole.

Following a 14-run, 17-hit onslaught on Monday, manager Ryne Sandberg isn’t sticking with his Opening Day lineup for the second game of the season on Tuesday night in Texas. He’s made several changes, most notably moving Howard from his customary fourth spot.

The Phillies face left-hander Martin Perez.

Marlon Byrd is hitting cleanup, in between Chase Utley (third) and Howard (fifth). It’s the first time since June 29, 2008 that Howard is starting a game and not hitting fourth, snapping a 665-game streak of starts out of the cleanup spot. Coincidentally, Howard’s last start out of the fourth spot was also in Arlington.

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Howard didn’t want to talk about the possibility of not hitting fourth last month, during a run of games when Sandberg moved him to the fifth spot more than a couple times in the span of week.

When asked about the possibility, Sandberg said he wasn’t married to any one regular lineup.

“I’ve talked to him about batting fourth or fifth,” Sandberg said last month. “Right how it’s just possibilities, not knowing what’s going to happen during the season. If there’s a situation where I feel its necessary to break up him and Chase, the left-handed bats, for a reason, that looks good. It’s a good way to do it.”

In addition to Howard hitting fifth, Utley is the designated hitter with Cesar Hernandez playing second base. John Mayberry Jr. is starting in place of Domonic Brown in left field and Jayson Nix is in for Cody Asche at third base.

“I think every now and then a little shakeup is necessary, just to switch things up, get guys thinking differently,” Sandberg said last month. “Whether it’s to relax or to change their approach. That’s another reason to switch up a lineup for a game or two. … Just a different change of mindset for a hitter.

“Sometimes it also creates a little bit of interest, something other than the norm, getting a different look, maybe to get a lineup clicking, providing a spark. All of those things - different lineups, different moves - I think are necessary.”

And if that means moving Howard around, so be it.

“It’s all about what works,” Sandberg said. “If a guy is red hot and just doing a great job in a spot, it’s hard to move a guy. But if there’s a scenario where you need a little jump start, a bit of a different look just to change something for a day or two, then for me, lineup changes are the way to go.”

The lineup:

1. Ben Revere, CF

2. Jimmy Rollins, SS

3. Chase Utley, DH

4. Marlon Byrd, RF

5. Ryan Howard, 1B

6. Carlos Ruiz, C

7. John Mayberry Jr., LF

8. Jayson Nix, 3B

9. Cesar Hernandez, 2B

A.J. Burnett is making his Phillies debut.

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