Atlanta Braves Can't Deny Ryan Howard Is a Slugger

Kevin MarkumCorrespondent IAugust 29, 2009

CHICAGO - AUGUST 12: Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies takes a swing against the Chicago Cubs on August 12, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Phillies defeated the Cubs 12-5. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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For the Atlanta Braves, the NL East title is becoming a long shot. As long as the Phillies can stay healthy, they look to maintain their lead in the division, as the Braves just can't seem to win the big games here lately.

On that note, Ryan Howard is killing the Braves--he really is.

Just last night, he was 3-for-3 with two home runs and a double. In his career against Atlanta, he is hitting .339 with 29 home runs in only 283 at-bats. In 2009 alone, he's hit five home runs off of Braves' pitching and is hitting .327.

Thankfully, his career against tonight's starter Derek Lowe isn't so spectacular. In 22 at-bats against Lowe, Howard has hit .136 with no homers.

Let's hope that history stands up tonight.

Last night, the Braves dropped another game to the Phillies in a very wet 4-2 loss.  Tommy Hanson started the game and was forced to leave the game early after not one, but two rain delays. 

Who knows how the game would have turned out if mother nature was taken out of the equation.

The most frustrating moment of the game, however, was the Braves' inability to produce more runs with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth inning against the struggling reliever Madson.

The Braves haven't hit a grand slam all season long, but boy was I expecting one last night.

With Escobar on first, Anderson on second, and Chipper Jones on third, Adam LaRoche, who is as hot as ever, came to bat with two outs. But with a full count, LaRoche flied out to Shane Victorino to end the inning.

If the Braves are going to make the playoffs, they need to swing the bats better, especially with runners on base late in the games.

Against the Padres, the Braves had similar opportunities but failed to cash in on the runners in scoring position.

Tonight, Derek Lowe (12-8, 4.48 ERA) faces the recently spectacular Cliff Lee (12-9, 2.63 ERA). The Braves' hitters will look to slow down a Cliff Lee that so far in the National League has been incredible, going 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA. 

Lowe needs a great game tonight against the Philadelphia sluggers, namely Ryan Howard, in order to help the Braves gain a game back in the NL East standings.

Tomorrow, the Braves will send Jair Jurrjens (10-8, 2.81 ERA) to the hill against Joe Blanton (8-6, 3.88 ERA).

This game will be presented nationally via ESPN and ESPN HD. Catch the Sunday night Game of the Week tomorrow night at 8:05 p.m. Eastern Time, as it should be a great pitching matchup between the two future aces.