With the Phillies down 7-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, desperate for a win to stay alive in the NL wild card race, Ryan Howard blasted one over the centerfield fence. A clear home run from the instant of contact, the ball slammed into the ivy-covered brick wall in front of Ashburn Alley. No fans would have their lifelong home run catch wish granted on this one though, which would have been a heck of a story because it was Howard's 300th career homer. (The ball landed in the shrubs under the batter's eye in center.) Watch it here.
Number 300 may not crack the top 100 in MLB history (Howard's now tied with former Phillie Chuck Klein at 134), but Howard is still only the second player to hit that many in a Phillies uniform, behind Michael Jack. According to Daily News beat man Ryan Lawrence, it's also the second fewest games that anyone has ever needed to reach 300. Lawrence points out that Ralph Kiner did it in 1,087 games played, just under Howard's 1,093.
When Howard crumbled to the ground out of the batter's box in the final at bat of the 2011 Phillies postseason, the achilles injury he sustained seemed like it might wipe out his 2012 season. Among a slew of other ailments, Howard's prolonged absence is a critical reason the Phillies need other teams to lose if they want to play in October this year. But his increasing power since returning is a reason that hope isn't completely lost just yet (at least for the undaunted optimists), and at the very least, a healthy Howard is something to look forward to next spring. The Big Piece has now homered in four straight games.
Unfortunately, the Phils couldn't do much more at the plate. The homer was Howard's only hit of the game, and only two of his teammates would join him in getting a hit on the day as Atlanta starter Mike Minor and his bullpen shut them down the rest of the way.
Roy Halladay was chased from the mound before the second inning was over, the second shortest appearance of his career per Jim Salisbury. Doc served up six runs before departing in the second inning and was charged with a seventh. Salisbury wonders if we've seen Halladay's last appearance of 2012. Laboring and having trouble locating his pitches, it's hard to see a reason why—especially if the wild card is further out of reach by his next turn.
With the Cardinals beating the Cubs, Saturday saw the Phils slide to four games back...
Cliff Lee faces Tim Hudson tomorrow afternoon.