Ryan Howard has spent the month of April in the kind of slump that all power hitters fall into from time to time. With a .172 batting average and 38 strikeouts, Howard still managed to muscle 5 home runs and was thankfully carried by the smoking hot bat of Pat Burrell. Thursday night began a new month and hopefully a new season for Howard.
Thursday nights rubber match between the Padres and the Phillies brought an ex-Padre and an ex-Phillie on to face one another. Adam Eaton squared off against Randy Wolf, both looking to lead their team to a series win. For the Padres things started off much as they did the night before.
In the first, after a single by Tadahito Iguchi with one out, Adrian Gonzalez got his 2nd homer in as many games and for the second consecutive night gave the Padres a 2-0 lead in the first.
It would take till the bottom of the third for the Phils to make some noise. With a leadoff double by the returning Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard came to the plate after strikeouts by Utley and Werth, and bombed a doubled to center field allowing Victorino to score. Burrell followed Howard's RBI double with one of his own and managed to tie up the game.
Both Wolf and Eaton settled in nicely and it wouldn't be until the eighth inning that the Phils would strike again. Ryan Howard led off the inning with a towering fly ball to the right field stands. Giving the Phils the lead and eventually the win. For the first time this season, the Phils lead the NL East. And as the rest of the teams are struggling to get good pitching, the Phillies bullpen appears to be the hottest of the season so far.
Friday the Phils open their series against the visiting Giants and look to build on their newly found lead in the division.