Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 11:25 p.m. Updated: April 24, 12:55 a.m.
By Jim Salisbury
SAN DIEGO At first, Ryan Howard said he was surprised.
Then, after a moment of reflection, he said he wasnt surprised.
The subject was San Diego manager Bud Blacks decision to walk No. 3 hitter Jimmy Rollins and pitch to Howard with the score tied in the 11th inning Saturday night.
Walk a guy with just four extra-base hits and two RBIs in the first 20 games of the season to face the guy that led the majors with 743 RBIs from 2005-2010?
Black did it. He had right-hander Chad Qualls walk Rollins, then brought in lefty Cory Luebke to face the left-handed hitting Howard with two outs in the inning.
Was I surprised? said Howard, repeating a reporters question. Yes and no. But with the way the game was going for me, not really.
The game had not gone well for Howard prior to facing Luebke in the 11th. The Phillies cleanup man had struck out four times. But with one swing at an 0-1 fastball that was down and away, Howard made up for those four Ks. He stroked a tailing fly ball toward the leftfield corner that eluded Ryan Ludwick and went for the two-run double that broke a 2-all tie and lifted the Phils to a 4-2 victory over the Padres.
Black said he walked Rollins with two outs and the potential go-ahead run on third because he liked the Luebke-Howard matchup better than the Qualls-Rollins matchup. Rollins had been 3 for 5 with two doubles in his career against Qualls.
From the on-deck circle, Howard saw the San Diego bench signal for the walk of Rollins. Some hitters feel slighted when the preceding man is walked intentionally, and Blacks move definitely stirred something inside Howard. Was he tempted to say Take that, Bud Black?
No. You dont say that, Howard said. But you do take it and try to use it as motivation and I was able to come through.
The Phillies have beaten the Padres three straight nights. Howard also struck out four times in Thursday nights win. He came back and tripled in the only two runs in Friday nights win.
Thats how the game is, Howard said. All it takes is one thing to click and it clicked for me at the right time.
He was good, manager Charlie Manuel said of Howard. He came through. I think he was motivated, yeah. He stayed on the ball good and tried to hit the ball hard and got a big hit.
Howard was in a position to drive in runs because pinch-hitter Placido Polanco led off the bottom of the 11th with a single, moved to second on Shane Victorinos bunt and third on a groundout before the walk to Rollins.
Joe Blanton gave up a single and a triple to the first two batters of the game as the Phils bid for a third straight shutout of the worst hitting team in the majors ended early. But Blanton pitched out of further trouble in the first and gave his club seven innings of two-run ball. You can win with that if the offense scores some runs. Lately, runs have not come easily for the Phils. They were looking at being held to three or fewer runs for the eighth time in 10 games before Howards hit in the 11th.
The bullpen was a huge reason for the win. Danys Baez, Antonio Bastardo, Kyle Kendrick and Ryan Madson combined on four scoreless innings to keep the Padres at bay. Madson had his second straight save, though he frayed some nerves including his own by allowing a long drive to left to Brad Hawpe with a man on base to end the game. Madson slumped his shoulders in exaggerated relief when Raul Ibanez made the catch to end the game.
Ibanez went 0 for 4 and had one of the Phils 11 strikeouts. He is hitting .187 and is expected to get a day off Sunday with John Mayberry Jr. getting the start in left.
The Phils have won 10 straight ballgames at Petco Park and they have Roy Halladay on the mound in Sundays finale.
I didnt know that, Victorino said of the Phils San Diego winning streak. Lets make it 11 in a row Sunday.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org
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