When the Phillies entered what many considered to be their most devastating stretch of opponents, at a time in which they needed wins more desperately than ever, one footnote was overlooked: They would be playing in some of Ryan Howard’s favorite places.
Much is made annually over how well Howard plays when visiting his hometown of St. Louis. Howard is slashing .374/.512/.717 in Busch Stadium (That’s a 1.229 OPS for people who like to look at even larger, more impressive numbers) in his career. In 27 games, he has gone 37-for-99 with 26 walks. It’s the most amount of hits he has in any non-NL East stadium.
NL teams have caught on slightly to Howard’s most torrid stomping grounds. Some of the stadiums where he has performed most productively have been shut down, as he absolutely raked in the Nationals’ RFK Stadium (.315/.447/.630 in 24 games) and Land Shark Stadium (56 H, 10 HR, 40 RBI in 53 games), where the Marlins played before zeroing in on Miami.
How many more times does Howard have to step into the batter’s box at Busch before they lock the gates?
On top of that, the Phillies recently departed Atlanta after embarrassing the Braves for three straight games. In 72 career games at Turner Field, Howard has hit .283/.372/.565, with 20 home runs and 71 RBI. He's even walked 38 times there, the second most for a single stadium in his career (first being Land Shark). In the last series alone at the Ted, he went 5-for-13 with a pair of round-trippers.
But the stadium surrounding Howard at the moment may not be the issue. For the last two weeks, he has simply been producing, and for a Phillies squad starved for regular offense, it doesn’t matter why. In the last 14 days, he has hit .325/.413/.575 with 13 hits, three home runs, and nine RBI, with a BABIP (.308) safely below his career average (.323) so that these numbers aren’t as inflated by bloops and trickles.
Zooming out even further, the month of June has seen the Phillies’ clean-up hitter cleaning up to the tune of .281/.361/.484. Sure, he still leads the league in strikeouts. But at least he's been momentarily outpacing them.
The four-hole in the lineup is a dead zone seeing an injection of new life, and it's helped the Phillies win seven of nine and recover from a rancid early June skid.