Phillies fans were worried.
After Roy "Doc" Halladay gave up that three-run home run in the first to Cardinals slugger Lance Berkman (the first three-run homer he has ever given up as a Phillie) and the Phillies offense was making Cardinals pitcher (and former Phillie) Kyle Lohse look like Cy Young for five innings, Phillies fans very worried.
After all, they've seen their team's offense go cold before. But then came the sixth and Ryan Howard, the slugger who is often under-appreciated in this town, made a statement loud enough to be heard even in his home town of St. Louis.
But before we get to that, let’s go back to the second inning. With the Cardinals already ahead 3-0, Halladay gave up a leadoff single.The next batter lined a ball toward the hole but Howard made a diving grab and a perfect toss to Halladay to get the out and potentially stop a big inning.
As Halladay headed back to the mound, Howard gave him a reassuring pat and said, “Keep ‘em right there.”
And that’s exactly what Doc did. By the time Ryan Howard came to bat in the sixth, Halladay had retired 15 consecutive Cardinals batters without a single ball leaving the infield. The Doc would go on to retire 21 straight before his night was through.
The Phillies finally scratched out a run in the fourth when Chase Utley got their first hit (and the first of two doubles for Chase) and Victorino drove him home with a single. So the Phillies were down 3-1 when Ryan Howard strode to the plate in the sixth with two on, one out.
But before we get to the sixth, let’s go back again—this time to another night in October, a night when Ryan Howard came to the plate with another game on the line, a night Ryan Howard would just as soon forget.
It was the ninth inning of the 2010 NLCS, the Giants leading in the series and the game 3-2. Bottom of the ninth, two on, two out, Howard at the plate. But the bat never left Ryan Howard’s shoulder on this night. He took a called strike to end the game and the Phillies season.
11 months can be a long time to wait for a chance at redemption, a very long time.
“Keep ‘em right there,” Howard had told Doc last night. Well, Doc had done as he asked, now it was Howard’s turn.
Bottom of the sixth, two on, one out, Howard at the plate, his team down 3-1. Howard worked a tough eight-pitch at-bat, fouling off change-up after change-up.
But there would be no called third strike on this night. Howard crushed Lohse’s eighth pitch deep into the night, high into the second deck of a jubilant Citizens Bank Park, giving the Phillies a lead that they would never give up.
Maybe "The Big Piece" can finally put that last October, with no home runs and no RBI, to rest.
“Keep ‘em right there,” Ryan Howard had said.
And then the Big Man took the bat off his shoulder and he did the rest.