On the brink of elimination, Philadelphia needs first basemen Ryan Howard to wake up from his eight-game slumber and re-energize a dormant Phillies' offense.
Since the postseason began, Howard (.276, 31 HRs, 108 RBIs) has accounted for only one of the Phillies' 29 postseason runs, a number that must change if Charlie Manuel's club wants to become just the eleventh team in MLB history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit.
Hobbled by an ankle injury that kept him sidelined for most of August, Howard came back strong in September for the Phillies displaying the power (seven HRs) and patience (.405 OBP, his highest of any month in '10) that we were accustomed to.
Despite coming into October on a hot streak, the former National League MVP hasn't driven in a single run during the playoffs and is hampering the Philadelphia offense because of his inability to come through at the plate with runners on base. In his 30 at-bats this postseason, Howard has struck out an inexcusable 14 times and left 12 runners stranded on the base paths in that time, despite a decent .286 average.
Contrary to his recent slump, the 2009 NLCS MVP is usually a reliable run-producer come playoff time, notching seven home runs and 27 RBIs in just 32 postseason games before this year.
Devoid of their main power threat, the Phillies have had to rely on small-ball strategy (10 steals and six sacrifices in October thus far) and power pitching for success.
Facing a rested and ready Jonathan Sanchez on Saturday, Howard will be counted on to pick up the pace at home against the Giants. Although he is only 3-for-14 lifetime facing Sanchez, Howard did have two hits and a walk against him in Game 2, inspiring confidence in his ability to get good wood off the lefty flame-thrower.
The Phillies remain a veteran team, who will not go quietly this October, despite teetering on the edge of eradication.
Desperate for a win, and a World Series rematch with the Yankees, the fate of the Phillies rests in hands of Ryan Howard to pull out a Game 6 victory in Philadelphia.
Jesse Paguaga is a regular contributor to Baseball Digest. He writes as an intern on the Bleacher Report website. Jesse writes for Gotham Baseball, along with Gotham Hoops and Gotham Gridiron. He can be reached at Paguaga@usc.edu and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/@jpags77
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