Every time that Ryan Howard comes up to bat, both of my daughters always think that he’s going to hit a home run. When he does, they run around in circles and cheer, often times forgetting what was the calalyst to this explosion of jubilation. Regaurdless of the critism aimed at the left handed slugger, he can always take solace in the fact that he has the support of two three year olds. Howard may not have hit a homer today, but he did go three for three with three RBI and a walk showing signs that he may be emerging from his recent slump.
This one did not start out well. There is a commonly held baseball axiom stating that you can get to an ace early in a ballgame. This convention was proven accurate as the Chicago Cubs got to Roy Oswalt for three runs in the top of the first inning. Oswalt allowed four hits, including a home run to Aramis Ramirez and looked beatable in his bid to earn his first win since late April. Luckily Osawalt settled down allowing only a Carlos Pena single after his rough first inning. He made it through seven innings striking out four of the last hitters he faced. Oswalt struggled early with his fastball command, but, as evidenced by his strikeout total near the end of his start, he found it by the end of the game.
One of the big reasons for Oswalt’s inability to win has centered on the amount of runs that the offense has been able to put up for the diminutive right hander. He seemed destined for the same fate today, as the offense squandered opportunities against terrible pitcher Doug Davis. The Phillies loaded the bases twice with one out in the first three innings and only scored two runs. Ryan Howard narrowly missed a game tying home run in the bottom of the first leading one to believe that Oswalt’s bad luck would continue. Davis left the game in position to win his first game of the year (he still stands at 0-5) after somehow getting through five innings of two run ball. He allowed a shit ton of baserunners (five hits and five walks) and managed to strike out five batters. It is a wonder that the Phillies didn’t win this game 11-3 and that Davis is still in the league.
The Cubs turned the game over to their bullpen, which included normally reliable left hander Sean Marshall. This is the second day in a row that the Phillies predominantly left handed line up has come through off of a tough left handed specialist. Marshall started the inning by hitting Shane Victorino. Utley doubled to set the table for Ryan Howard who delivered a two run single and giving the Phillies a lead 4-3. The way that Howard and Utley handled left handers today is extremely encouraging. Utley is starting to drive the ball to all fields and Howard is heating up. It looks like the band is back together everybody.
The Phillies have a day off tomorrow and welcome the Marlin in for a big four game series on Tuesday. With a win Cole Hamels will tie teammate Roy Halladay for the league lead with nine wins. The Marlins may have Hanley Ramirez back in the line up backing right hander Chris Volstad.