By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA –Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard had been mired in a horrific slump in his last 10 games coming into Monday’s game against the Colorado Rockies.
He was batting .088 (3-for-34, 3 runs batted in) and 0-for-16 coming into the fourth inning of the series opener against Colorado. Suffice it to say, Howard was way overdue.
A little more than 24 hours after his team was no-hit by Josh Beckett and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Howard drove in a season-high five runs on three hits including a two-run homer to lead the Phillies to a 9-0 shutout win over the Colorado Rockies in front of 27, 289 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.
“It’s always good. It’s a crazy game, you’re bound to break out at some point,” Howard said. “(Monday) we were able to, so we just got to be able to take that into tomorrow, and the next day and the next day after that.”
For a team that suffered through a demoralizing Sunday afternoon at the hands of Beckett, seeing the hard-hitting Howard, who went 3-for-4 against the Rockies, break out of his slump was something like manna from heaven for a team that has been starving on offense.
“It was a good game for him to see him connect,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “He had some good swings today and made some things happen.”
Howard said he wanted to build on his last at-bat against Beckett when he hit a line drive out to center. For him, it was about hanging and there and finding places where the ball can drop in for a hit to get things going.
“Found some real estate, found some grass out there,” Howard said. “You go through those times, those lapses, those scuffles and all kinds of stuff. You just have to keep pressing. That’s what I was trying to do. It gets tough, it’s gets frustrating. It gets bad at times. I was trying to build off that last at-bat from (Sunday).”
The Phillies also got a big performance from second baseman Chase Utley who also went 3-for-4 with a run batted in. Centerfielder Ben Revere also had three hits including his seventh run batted in of the season. John Mayberry Jr. also contributed to the Phillies cause with a two-run homer as a pinch hitter in the Phillies five-run seventh inning.
The offensive explosion by the Phils ended a 10-game losing for starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (1-5), who got his last win on Aug. 11th of 2013. In six and two-thirds innings of work, he allowed no runs on six hits with two strikeouts and a walk.
“That’s what you’re looking for to pitch well and get the “W.” That’s what you want to do,” Kendrick said. “The guys were able to put up some runs. On the pitching side, we were able to keep them from scoring. I was just trying to worry about one pitch at a time and I was able to do that today.”
The Phillies got their first four runs off Rockies starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, who gave up seven hits including Howard’s sixth inning two-run homer. He pitched five innings and to two men in the sixth before leaving the game.
Phillies relievers allowed just one in the last two and one-third innings. The closest the Rockies came to scoring was in top of the seventh with two on and two out and their best hitter, Troy Tulowitzki coming to the plate.
But Phillies setup man Mike Adams fanned Tulowitzki to end the Colorado threat. The Phils scored five runs in their half of the seventh to put the game away.
While this game was good for the team’s psyche after going through a devastating no-hitter, the Phillies have to figure out a way to do this on a consistent basis. That’s something they’ve struggled with all season.
“That’s the potential that is possibly there with any given game the way I look at it,” Sandberg said. “It’s starts at the top of the order. Ben (Revere) getting on base and making things happen. Chase (Utley) has been solid. It’s good to see (Howard) connect on some balls and drive some runs in. It’s seems like the potential is there when we go out there. Hopefully, it’s the start of something with this new series against Colorado.”
Notes–Cliff Lee Needs further Evaluation
Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, who is on the 15-day disabled list, will have his has strained left elbow re-evaluated over the next three days and has not been clear to pitch. While the team was hoping he would be back on June 3, Lee’s stint on the DL maybe longer than what the team planned.
Lee said he still felt some soreness in the elbow when he was tested by Phillies team doctors on Monday.
“It’s definitely better, but it’s still there,” Lee said. “That’s fine whenever I can do some of the tests they put me through if I can without feeling it at all, then I’ll start throw. Until then I got to continue to work on it and let it heal.”
Lee has as Grade 1-2 of the flexor tendon and had been complaining about soreness since April. Lee is 4-4 with a 3.18 earned run average.