Phillies Notebook: For HR Competition, Howard and Brown are Game On
PHILADELPHIA—If there’s to be an unofficial home run duel, bring it.
Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown say they’re game.
“That’s all good with me,” Howard said after the Phillies 4-1 win over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park Friday night. “So long as we’re all going out there trying to contribute, I’ll take it.”
“Ryan, he does it all,” said Brown, who roped one to right in the fourth for the Phillies final run. “To be mentioned with him right now is a great accomplishment, but I’m trying to keep it going.”
Technically, Chase Utley, who belted his team-high sixth on the year tonight in the third, is the leader in the clubhouse here. Howard and Brown have five apiece.
But the power stroke that’s found the Phillies Nos. 4 and 6 hitters lately is impossible to ignore. They’ve mauled a combined seven home runs and 20 RBI with a .338 average over 65 at-bats in their last nine games. Altogether, the lineup had only 20 between them in 21 games prior.
On Friday, Howard opened it up in the second with a zip-lined shot to the right field porch. Utley followed up in the third. Brown rounded it out in the fourth. All solo shots to lead off successive frames through the sixth inning.
Of the Phillies 27 home runs so far, 18 have been of the one-run variety.
“Hopefully those three-run homers, two-run homers, guys start getting on, that stuff will come,” Howard said. “We’ll take those solo homers and hopefully keep trying to manufacture runs.
“And keep going for triples.”
From that, reporters got a good chuckle. But the jovial Howard that fielded lighthearted questions tonight was one that circumstances haven’t allowed for often so far. Suffice it to say that Howard is here now, evidenced no more by the third-inning triple he went for and, well, didn't get.
Howard and Brown in spring training teased such long ball potential – even enough to make for this sort of one-upmanship. They each crushed seven home runs during the Grapefruit League season, good for a tie for fourth-best in baseball, and together worked a .338 average.
But it didn’t gain traction in the early going.
Howard opened the year with the longest homerless drought of his career (29 at-bats) and didn’t hit his second until his 20th game. This, despite starting the first 14 games out of the chute in the spring in a move designed to fast-track his first month of meaningful play.
Brown, meanwhile, saw his average sag to .206 through his first 21 games.
That’s now begun to change, as the Phillies needed it to.
Charlie Manuel has done what he could to encourage success. He’s shuffled his lineup time and time over to try to ignite his sluggers young and old. He’s recently shown a fondness of splitting Howard and Utley in the order with Michael Young in the three-hole. And that he can now offer Howard protection in the five-hole from a legit power threat in Delmon Young has helped.
The two could also be feeding off each other.
No matter the cause, the Phillies hope this proves sustainable.
And if gamesmanship happens to come of it, fine by Howard and Brown.
Said Howard with a smile: “If we can go out there and hit a home run every day, great.”