Ryan Howard Enjoys His Dramatic Ninth Inning Home Run

Ryan Howard Enjoys His Dramatic Ninth Inning Home Run

"It meant something for us, and it meant something for him," Charlie Manuel said. "He needed that."

A fan base needed that.

And with one swing of the bat while trailing the Mets by a run in the ninth inning with two outs, Ryan Howard kept the blip on the Phillies season's heart monitor from turning into a straight line. If you're going to jolt a bit of life back into a team, that's one hell of a way to do it.

[watch video of Ryan Howard's two-run home run against the Mets]
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A Big Piece bomb can bring excitement to even the most skeptical and downtrodden of Philadelphia fans. There's nothing quite like the Phillies slugger simply killing a baseball. His game and season saver on Wednesday knocked off the second deck at Citi Field.

It was sweet.

The Phillies offense was nonexistent for 8 and 2/3 innings on Wednesday night in Flushing, New York, aside from another Jimmy Rollins leadoff home run to start the game.

And in all reality, the Phillies will still likely be booking tee times for the first week of October, but Wednesday night reminded us of how enjoyable some of the guys on this Phillies team can be to watch. And it shut up some of the haters that make talking baseball with some people in this town so unbearable at times.

One sports radio caller I heard earlier in the day on Wednesday actually said Manuel should bench Howard for the remainder of the season. You know who the caller said they should start in his place? "Anybody."

Sure, one sweet swing isn't going to make Howard's season numbers instantly transform into preeminent slugger numbers overnight. But one swing can remind us of what he's capable of if he can come back fully healthy next spring.

Wednesday night was a reminder that Phillies baseball can be fun.

You know what my favorite part of it all was? Okay, besides the Big Piece watching it go and raising his arm and pointing to the sky while rounding first. The fan they showed on TV with his rally cap on.

That poor sucker sat through an entire 2012 Phillies-Mets game at CitiField surrounded by the jorted masses few only to see his team one out away from going down without throwing any punches.

Then Howard destroys a baseball and it pays off like hell yeah. That's why you go to potentially meaningless games in September.

And now we get to watch at least a few more meaningful ones.

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@dhm GIF'd the homb as well. It's a beaut. Kevin Frandsen is a fan.

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For more about the unlikeliness of Howard's late homer -- he hadn't had a hit off a lefty reliever ALL SEASON -- check out John Gonzalez's story: Howard plays unexpected hero in Phillies' win.

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Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

BOX SCORE

For as much as the Sixers’ bigs are talked about, Richaun Holmes often is left out of the conversation. 

He’s not the centerpiece of the team like Joel Embiid nor was he heavily involved in trade talks like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. He is the backup center who bides his time on the bench and quietly stays ready when he gets the nod.

And on Friday, he was the standout player in the Sixers’ 120-112 win over the Wizards (see Instant Replay)

“He’s been sort of the person that people forget about because of the logjam of five men,” Brett Brown said. “We all sort of think, ‘Well, he should just accept it because he’s behind Joel and Nerlens and Jahlil. Good ol’ Richaun. Go to the D-League and it’s OK.’ And that doesn’t work. He’s a pro, he’s competitive. He’s handled it. He’s really been a wonderful teammate.”

Holmes was bumped up in the rotation following the trade of Noel to the Mavs. He moved into the second-unit role while Okafor started in place of the injured Embiid. 

Holmes recorded his first double-double with 12 points (6 for 9 from the field) and 10 rebounds (three offensive). He also blocked a career-high five shots, tying Embiid for the most by a Sixer this season. The second-year big man put together this impressive performance in 26 minutes off the bench. 

“Just play hard,” Holmes said of his approach. “Just go out there, show what you’ve been working on, play hard every second you’re out there. That’s the motto I’ve got.”

Holmes is averaging 16.1 minutes and has appeared in just 32 of the Sixers’ 57 games. This season he also spent time with the Delaware 87ers of the Development League to get playing time. Holmes embraced an opportunity similar to Friday’s a month ago when he scored 18 points in as many minutes against the Clippers. 

“I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt,” Holmes said. “Prepare like I’m going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance.”

Brown did not rule out the possibility that Holmes could start at some point if he continues this production. The Sixers are limiting Okafor to 20 to 24 minutes per game, according to Brown. That, combined with Embiid’s injury, could lend itself to an increased role for Holmes. 

“I think in that environment, it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary for Richaun to get a start from time to time,” Brown said. 

Even if he remains on the second unit, Holmes proved he can provide a spark off the bench. Dario Saric noted how Holmes’ impact on both ends of the floor bolsters the frontcourt in addition to a more offensively-minded Okafor (11 points, two rebounds). 

“I think he played unbelievably good in both ways,” Saric said. “Everybody knows he’s an elite guy finishing around the rim, and he stepped in Nerlens’ place, he replaced him unbelievably good. I hope he will get the same minutes for the next game because we have Jahlil, who is more like a post-up player, who likes more to score from the low-post block, and we for sure need some guy like Richaun who will play in both ways." 

Perhaps the person least surprised by Holmes' game was Holmes himself. It was the result he puts in long hours to produce.

“It’s all about the grind,” he said. “All about keep working, keep trying to move up, keep trying to get better every second and it’ll pay off.” 

Ilya Bryzgalov talks goalies playing in contract year, Las Vegas and more

Ilya Bryzgalov talks goalies playing in contract year, Las Vegas and more

Gotta love Bryz, right?

Former Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was his usual humorous, unpredictable self in a recent interview with Sportsnet.ca's Luke Fox.

From what he's doing now to talking pressure as a goalie, here are some of the highlights ...

On a goalie's mental state when job security is up in the air (referenced to Flyers goalie Steve Mason)
“So many goalies take the job for a long time, so it’s easy to be out of game. You worry. You want to find a long-term job, pay bills. It’s not a secret. That’s why when there’s no [contractual] certainty and you don’t see 100 percent confidence from your team, it might affect your game. If the season’s not going well, you start thinking about it.”

On his son playing goalie
"He chose it. He’s the guy who gives his team a chance to win. Make some saves. But he plays as a player once a week, too. Shoots the puck on goalies every Wednesday pretty much.”

On being a hockey dad
“I’m pretty calm. I only get upset when I see the referees make the bad calls. The kids work so hard and play so passionately, you can’t take sides. Only when the referee’s unfair.”

On being a pro hockey player in Las Vegas
"I’m family guy, settled down. I’ve never been too emotional or casino-addicted. For me, no problem. For the young guys to play there, it causes trouble, man. Difficult trouble. … The young ones with the cash? Las Vegas can provide lots of scenes, know what I mean?"

The rest is just as good. For the full Q&A, read Fox's article right here.

Also, Bryzgalov will be a part of Sportsnet's trade deadline coverage next Wednesday.

And side note: Bryz remains active on Twitter. And remains random as ever.

Just look at his last tweet ...