Howard's hot streak helping to carry Phillies
PHILADELPHIA -- Hitting is contagious. If that wasn't a tired baseball aphorism before, Ryan Howard and Pete Mackanin sure made it one.
"Guys are going up there having good at-bats all the way around," Howard said. "Hitting is contagious so to speak."
"Hitting is contagious. We've all heard that cliché," Mackanin said. "But it seems to be taking a hold with our team right now."
The phrase is a cliché. But that doesn't make it wrong in the Phillies' case. In Saturday's 12-2 victory over the Braves, the Phillies scored the most runs they've put up in a game since May 17, 2014, against the Cincinnati Reds, improving their record to 12-2 since the All-Star break.
Howard has been at the center of this offensive explosion. His three hits on Saturday improved his average over his seven-game hitting streak to .462. He has 12 runs batted in over this stretch, the most he has had in a 12-game span since between May 26 and June 1 of 2014. After starting off the game 3-for-3, he was intentionally walked in the sixth inning for the second time this season and the ninth since the beginning of 2014.
Since the start of his hitting streak, Howard has improved his batting average from .219 to .238 and his OPS from .697 -- the lowest it had been since early May -- to .751. But as much as it seems as if Howard has turned a corner, he doesn't see it that way.
"I've had confidence. I just haven't had balls falling in," Howard said. "Now it's just a matter of getting balls to fall when I need them to. The confidence has always been there. It's just a matter of finding real estate every once in a while."
If a baseball field is like a metropolitan area, Howard has been finding his real estate inside the city limits recently, with just eight of his 40 hits since the beginning of June being home runs. But luckily for Howard, his teammates have been able to plant some balls in the suburbs while he's been hitting more like a slap hitter.
Saturday was just the fourth time all year that the Phillies hit three home runs with Cameron Rupp hitting a three-run shot in the fourth, Odubel Herrera launching a solo homer into the second deck in right field in the fifth and Freddy Galvis joining the party with a three-run clout of his own in the sixth.
Mackanin said he has noticed the trend of Howard falling behind in the home-run chase and has ribbed the former MVP about it.
"I keep teasing him," the manager said. "Everybody else is hitting home runs and he's hitting singles and doubles. I don't know. How do you explain it?"
Luckily for Howard, if his teammates keep hitting home runs, he very well may join in too. After all, hitting is contagious.