Friday, November 27, 2015

Ryan Howard walk-off homer leads Phillies past Rockies

Gallery: Phillies 6, Rockies 3

A steady rain forced the Phillies to move their pregame hitting indoors on Wednesday afternoon. While some of his teammates were still checking in, a sweat-soaked Ryan Howard walked through the hallway that separates the batting cages to the clubhouse after some extra work.

About seven hours later, Howard made the same walk. Once back in the clubhouse, he walked over to Mike Adams and the two veteran shared a celebratory handshake.

Two innings after Adams escaped a mission impossible - bases loaded, no one out and the Rockies top two hitters due up - Howard launched a titanic, three-run home run off Colorado lefthander Boone Logan to deliver the Phillies a come-from-behind, 6-3 walk-off win on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

"That ball was crushed," manager Ryne Sandberg said of Howard’s home run.

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    The game-winning souvenir landed just to the left of dead center, several rows deep into the bleacher seats in front of Ashburn Alley. It found its new owner an estimated 435-feet from home plate. 

    "I was looking for something and he left me a fastball kind of middle, middle-away, and i just jumped on it," Howard said. "I didn’t care too much if it was out or not, I just knew once I hit it it was going to be a base hit and the game was going to be over."

    Howard’s home run, his second in as many starts, was one of two, two-out hits off Boone Logan in the game-winning rally. Rockies manager Walt Weiss summoned in the lefthander to face Howard and Chase Utley.

    Utley preceded Howard’s game-winning home run with a game-tying single after Logan fell behind with three straight balls to begin the at-bat.

    "Chase looked like he wanted to win the game, prolonging his at-bat with an aggressive swing on 3-0," Sandberg said. "Clutch hit. And Howard really looked like he was getting after it in his at-bat."

    The Rockies defense also should be credited with an assist in the inning.

    After Cesar Hernandez grounded out to begin the ninth, the Phillies rally began when Colorado second baseman Josh Rutledge sailed a ball over first baseman Justin Morneau’s head, allowing Tony Gwynn Jr. to reach. Ben Revere followed with a single and the Phillies were on their way.

    "When you give major league teams extra outs," Sandberg said, "something can happen." 

    Howard’s ninth home run of the season saved the Phillies bullpen.

    Antonio Bastardo walked four of the five batters he faced after taking over for starter Roberto Hernandez. Adams managed to save Bastardo, miraculously escaping a base-loaded, no-out jam that brought Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez into the game as pinch hitters. 

    "That’s a closer situation," Sandberg said of Adams’ escape act. "Our backs were against the wall."

    Jake Diekman had no way of erasing his latest, crushing home run. With the Rockies and Phillies knotted at 2-2, Diekman served up a solo home run to D. J. LeMahieu with one out in the eighth inning.

    For Diekman, the home run to LeMahieu, which came on a 3-2 slider, was the fourth long ball he’s allowed in 26 2/3 innings of 24 games this season. That’s twice as many home runs as he allowed in the last two seasons, combined.

    Diekman served up just two home runs in 77 games (65 2/3 innings) in his first two years in the big leagues.

    Although his pitching line hardly made him look like someone to blame, Roberto Hernandez wasn’t exactly the second coming of Walter Johnson before turning the ball over to the pen.

    Hernandez held the hard-hitting Rockies lineup to two runs, but he was out of the game after 5 2/3 innings, the same number he’s averaged in nine starts this season. Hernandez, signed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract to fill out the rotation this winter, has failed to complete six innings in five of his nine starts this season.

    But the Phillies bats rescued Hernandez and the relief corps, too, in the ninth. Howard helped the Phillies to a series win by going 5-for-9 with two home runs and nine RBI in three games (two starts) against the Rockies. 

    Howard entered the series hitting .196 and without a home run in his previous 14 games.

    "I found the ball," Howard said. "That’s about it. With swinging, sometimes you have to tinker with a few things, sometimes it just finds you. You don’t question it. you just try to roll with it."

    Daily News Staff Writer
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