The Phillies Won a Game Because Ryan Howard Went Yard

The Phillies Won a Game Because Ryan Howard Went Yard

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With a dinger roughly every 13 at bats, Ryan Howard is Major League Baseball's active career leader in home runs per at bat. It took 18 trips to belt his first in 2012, but the timing could not have been much better.

The Big Piece made a new friend out in L.A. on Monday night. With Ted Lilly on the disabled list, 22-year-old Nate Eovaldi has been pressed into the Dodgers' rotation for the past month and a half, and Howard took to the young right-hander immediately. He gave one a ride to the left field wall for a long out on his first at bat. On the second, he finally got it over the top.

That solo shot in the fourth inning proved to be the game's decisive run, as Jimmy Rollins had a blast himself, and Juan Pierre chipped in an RBI in a 3-2 Phillies victory to open the series with Los Angeles. It's the Fightins' third win in a row, for those of you still keeping track.

While Howard will get most of the pub today, Joe Blanton arguably had the biggest hand in a huge win for the Phils. Blanton worked eight tremendous frames, holding the Dodgers to six hits and walking zero. When they did manage to get on the board in the sixth and seventh, Heavy B prevented those from becoming bigger innings, which is the main reason RyHo's homer can stand as the headliner.

The W is number eight of the season for Blanton. Jonathan Papelbon did his thing in the ninth to pick up his 20th save.

However, the story really is Howard, both because he hasn't fared too well in his short time back, but also that it's refreshing to see a visual reminder of the way he can impact games with one swing of the lumber. So far, he's 3-for-20 with a couple of walks.

Let's be honest: it's difficult to set expectations for Ryan Howard this season. The Inquirer's Phil Sheridan wrote yesterday if Piece is on the field and earning $20 million, it's reasonable to expect he perform up to that. Then again, he's not quite healthy, and how long will it take until the timing is there? Probably a lot faster if opposing teams keep feeding him Eovaldis, but we know that's not always the case.

Monday gave us reason to be excited about his progress though. He still has a ways to go obviously, but it appears at the very least Howard is still a danger to fans sitting in outfield seats at ballparks everywhere. These are exactly the kind of big hits the Phillies have missed all too often this year.

Going back to 2004, Ryan Howard homers once every 13.3 at bats. To put that in perspective, that's basically every five games. If he posts a figure even close to that the rest of the way, the Phillies clearly will win more frequently -- and maybe just maybe make this second half interesting after all.

Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

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Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

CHICAGO –- For those who called this a measuring stick series, well, you’re going to need a bigger ruler.

The Phillies are still miles upon miles from being able to match up consistently with baseball’s elite clubs.

They’ve encountered one of them the last two days and the results haven’t been pretty: Two losses to the Chicago Cubs by a combined score of 10-3. The Cubbies have pounded nine extra-base hits in the two games and four have been home runs. The Phillies have just three extra-base hits, all doubles, and one was a pop-up that dropped in because of a communication breakdown in the Cubs’ outfield.

Saturday’s 4-1 loss was the Phillies’ sixth defeat in the last eight games and fourth in five games on this challenging trip that started in Detroit (see Instant Replay). Like the Cubs, the Tigers can mash the baseball. The Phillies can’t and it’s catching up with them. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game, second-worst in baseball. Saturday’s loss marked the 18th time they’ve been held to two or fewer runs in their 49 games. It’s a tribute to their pitching that they’re still three games over .500.

Something must be done to spark the offense. Management has basically said it wants to take more time to evaluate the team and its place in the standings before it decides whether to pursue a bat in the trade market. And even if club officials decide to pursue a bat, they won’t compromise the rebuild — i.e. trade away the prospects it has worked to accumulate — to get one.

So what you’re looking at in the short-term is more of Tommy Joseph — that’s a move that has to be made as Ryan Howard is down to a .154 batting average— and maybe Cody Asche, who could join the club during the coming homestand.

Not too long ago, the Cubs were a rebuilding team, just like these Phillies. Now, they are baseball’s best club, leading the majors with 33 wins and outscoring opponents by 126 runs. (The Phillies, by the way, have a run differential of minus-38.) The Cubs have one goal for this season: Snap their 108-year World Series drought. Anything less will be a disappointment.

There’s more to this Cubs team than offense, though. The Phillies have seen that over the last two days. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs two starting pitchers, have allowed just two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings.

Hendricks came within one out of a shutout Saturday. The right-hander was not overpowering, but he threw a lot of strikes and the Phillies did nothing with them. He scattered five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. The middle of the Phillies' order — Maikel Franco, Howard and Cameron Rupp — went 0 for 12 with four strikeouts.

Manager Pete Mackanin tipped his hat to Hendricks.

Sort of.

“Let me say this,” Mackanin said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Hendricks because he’s a damn good pitcher and I like him a lot, but I feel like we took pitches we should have hit and we swung at pitches we shouldn’t have swung at. He gave us just enough, not a lot, but just enough, pitches out over the plate to hit and we didn’t capitalize. We took too many pitches that were hittable. That being said, I really like the kid. But I think we should have been more aggressive early in the count.”

Why weren’t the Phils more aggressive?

“Who knows?” Mackanin said. “They just didn’t look aggressive at the plate.”

The Cubs, in turn, were aggressive. They came out of the gate pounding baseballs. Leadoff man Dexter Fowler homered in the first inning against Jerad Eickhoff and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both had doubles as the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead.

Eickhoff got better and gave the club six innings, but the bats couldn’t bail him out.

“Eickhoff started off real shaky and didn’t show command,” Mackanin said. “The ball was up in the zone and it looked like it might get ugly when they scored early. But after the second inning, he settled down and pitched well, the way we’ve seen him pitch, using all his pitches.”

Said Eickhoff: “They’re a good team, but all good teams can be manipulated and controlled. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”

Vince Velasquez gets a chance to try to control the rampaging Cubs on Sunday.

Andrew Bynum's new hairdo will haunt your dreams

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The Associated Press

Andrew Bynum's new hairdo will haunt your dreams

Of all the questionable decisions in Andrew Bynum’s career, this might just take the cake as the worst. No, it definitely does. 

Just look at that hair. What was he thinking? Was he even thinking at all?  

Bynum, who is no stranger to bad — I mean really bad — hair, looks to be enjoying his retirement. But let’s dig a bit deeper. Put on your polarized sunglasses and look past that bright yellow hair, because there is much more going on in this picture.

Forget his time as a member of the Sixers, smiling in a picture with a Penguins’ fan might be the biggest travesty Bynum has committed against the city.

And where was this picture taken? It appears to be a casino or arcade. Wherever it is, for the sake of Bynum’s precious knees, let’s hope it’s not a bowling alley

More MLB Notes: First baseman James Loney traded from Padres to Mets

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USA Today Images

More MLB Notes: First baseman James Loney traded from Padres to Mets

NEW YORK -- The Mets have found help at first base following Lucas Duda's injury, acquiring veteran James Loney from the San Diego Padres for cash.

Loney has spent this season in the minors, playing well for Triple-A El Paso. He was batting .342 with two home runs and 28 RBIs over 43 games in the Pacific Coast League.

Always a fine fielder, the 32-year-old Loney hit .280 with four homers, 16 doubles and 32 RBIs in 104 games with Tampa Bay last year. The Rays released him April 3 and he signed with the Padres on April 8.

Duda was put on the disabled list Monday with a stress fracture in his lower back that is expected to sideline him at least four to six weeks, probably longer.

Until Duda returns, Mets manager Terry Collins says Loney, a left-handed hitter, will mostly face right-handed pitching in a first-base platoon with Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell. Flores is close to returning from a strained hamstring.

In a corresponding move Saturday, the team selected the contract of right-hander Casey Fien from its top farm club.

Dodgers send lefty Urias back to minors after brief debut
NEW YORK -- Following a brief major league debut, the Los Angeles Dodgers have optioned 19-year-old pitching prospect Julio Urias back to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says the team wanted another arm in the bullpen after Urias lasted only 2 2/3 innings Friday night. Los Angeles used five relievers in a 6-5 loss to the New York Mets.

Urias, one of baseball's top prospects, threw 42 of 81 pitches for strikes at Citi Field in a much-anticipated big league debut that lasted 59 minutes. He became the first teenage pitcher to start a game in the majors since Seattle's Felix Hernandez in 2005.

The left-hander gave up three runs, five hits and four walks while striking out three. He was on the hook for a loss until Los Angeles rallied for four runs in the ninth to tie the score (see full story).

Royals: Catcher Perez hurt, helped from field
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez had to be helped off the field in the ninth inning Saturday against the Chicago White Sox after colliding with rookie third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert while catching Adam Eaton's foul popup.

Cuthbert came sliding in and struck Perez's lower legs. Perez went down in pain as trainer Nick Kenney and manager Ned Yost rushed to the field.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and left fielder Alex Gordon collided Sunday while chasing a foul ball at Chicago and both landed on the disabled list. Gordon has a broken right wrist and is out for three to four weeks, while Moustakas tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and is likely out for the season.

Drew Butera replaced Perez.

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter activated from paternity list
WASHINGTON -- Third baseman Matt Carpenter has been activated from the paternity list by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Carpenter missed two games after being placed on the paternity list Thursday. His wife gave birth to the couple's first child, a girl, on Wednesday.

Carpenter leads the Cardinals with nine home runs and 32 RBIs.

To make room for Carpenter on the 25-man roster, St. Louis designated infielder Ruben Tejada for assignment on Saturday. Tejada was batting .176 over 23 games with no homers and three RBIs.

If Tejada is released, St. Louis would be responsible for the remainder of his $1.5 million salary this year, which was $1,049,180 entering Saturday.