Ryan Howard dropped his bat, stood at home plate and watched. He watched his grand slam rocket over the right-center-field wall, watched it crash into Citizens Bank Park's visiting bullpen, and watched it trigger a 10-6 win over the Colorado Rockies.
The watch was vintage Howard. And his recent run may be enough for Howard to find himself playing for a contender for the final stretch of the season. The grand slam - Howard's 14th of his career - is the first baseman's seventh homer in his last 27 games. He finished 3 for 5 for his second three-hit game this month.
— Phillies (@Phillies) August 13, 2016
“If I were a playoff team, I’d take notice,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “What he did tonight is something that he’s capable of doing either as a DH or a pinch-hitter off the bench. He’s swinging the bat and coming up with big hits. I’m happy for him.”
Howard is batting .320 over that 27-game stretch with 12 extra-base hits in 75 at-bats and 19 RBIs. It might be worth it for a playoff team to take a chance on Howard, who can be traded for a crack at the postseason as long as he clears waivers. Howard has to be on a team's roster before Sept. 1 to be eligible for the playoffs.
“Really and truthfully, I’m just trying to take it as it comes,” Howard said. “Not trying to put much thought into anything. Just trying to keep it simple.”
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The grand slam provided a fitting moment on a night that started with honoring Jim Thome, who was inducted onto the team's Wall of Fame. Thome left Philadelphia in the fall of 2005, just three years after he brought baseball back to front of the city's sports landscape. His departure paved the way for Ryan Howard, who would take baseball in Philadelphia to another level.
Howard said Thome was a humble mentor. Thome cheered Howard's slam from a ballpark suite.
"Ryan Howard was emerging into a monster," Thome said about his departure. "Unfortunately, the National League didn't have a DH. It would have been great to have him and I in the middle of the lineup."
Howard's homer came just in time to earn Jake Thompson his first major-league win. The rookie allowed three runs in five innings, struck out six, and walked three.
He struck out four batters in the second inning after David Dahl reached first after a striking out on a wild pitch. Thompson was the first Phillies pitcher to whiff four batters in an inning since Doc White in 1902. The outing was a decent rebound for Thompson, who struggled last week in his debut.
“It’s kind of nice to get that first one out of the way,” Thompson said. “Hopefully, gain a little bit more confidence and comfort on the mound and keep it rolling.”
Elvis Araujo, Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris, and David Hernandez pieced together the final four innings. Hernandez gave up a pair of homers with two outs in the ninth.
Howard's homer in the fifth came after Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, and Maikel Franco loaded the bases. Altherr, who finished with two hits, kept the bases loaded by beating a throw at second base on Franco's grounder.
Howard crushed the second pitch he saw, driving it 455 feet and sending a stadium into a frenzy. The crowd - including Thome - responded with a standing ovation, pleading for Howard to leave the dugout for a curtain call. Howard, who one day will join his mentor on the team's wall of fame, beckoned and waved from the dugout's top steps. That, too, was vintage.