Howard, Phillies energized by late-season run

Ryan Howard said he kept a simple outlook as he and his Phillies teammates continued to grind things out when most had counted them out.

Not that the Phillies still don’t have major work to do, but they are within three games of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild card spot with 11 to play after Friday’s 6-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.

To be honest, not many, including this reporter, ever though that Phillies games entering the fourth week of September would have so much meaning. Howard insists he never bought into the talk of the Phillies demise.

“I never gave up on anything and that is why it’s a 162-game season,” he said. “A lot of people saw what happened last year and that is why you play them all and you never know what happens.”

Last year it was the Cardinals who came roaring back, when most had counted them out.

Now it’s the Phillies, along with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Milwaukee has made just as impressive of a run as the Phillies and actually only trail the Cardinals by 1.5 games.

Either way, the Phillies are definitely energized to still be playing meaningful baseball.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Howard, who has hit home runs in three consecutive games and now has 299 for his career. “This is the end of the season and the playoff push is right there and that is what you play for.”

And just because he insists that he isn’t surprised by the fact that the Phillies are playing meaningful games, doesn’t mean that Howard and his teammates aren’t enjoying this ride.

“To be in the hunt with everything that has gone on this year, being three games out now, it’s fun and an exciting time.”

In winning five straight division titles, one World Series and two National League pennants, maybe the Phillies took winning for granted, even subconsciously.

Now they are appreciating each win, and even after a disastrous weekend in Houston, they have bounced back.

So they will scoreboard watch a little more than usual, but as Howard explained, they can only take care of the task at hand.

At the very least, they have put tremendous pressure on the teams ahead of them. As recently as Aug. 17, the Phillies were 54-65. Since then they are 23-9.

Every game now has a playoff feel to it and based on where this team was even a month ago, this would have been impossible to envision for just about anybody but Howard and the rest of the team.