Friday, May 23, 2008

Phillies-Astros: Howard Back to MVP Form

Thursday night opened a four game set between two National League contenders as the Philadelphia Phillies headed to Houston to take on the Astros. The story of both of these two teams has pretty much been the same all year. Good offense, shaky starting pitching, solid bullpen that has managed to keep them in games this year. Both teams fighting to regain the top spot in their division. Luckily for the Phillies, their starting pitching has been on a bit of a run as late and would look to Kyle Kendrick to continue their bid for first.

Kendrick's start was a bit rocky for the Phils as he allowed a run in each of the first two innings. The first off of a Lance Berkman double to bring home Miguel Tejada, and the second off a sac-fly from Brad Ausmus to plate Hunter Pence.

Thankfully the Phils did expend all their offense in the 12-2 route of the Nationals the night before and managed to put of 4 runs in the first three innings against Roy Oswalt who was on the mound for the 'Stros.

Carlos Ruiz singled in the second inning to bring home Ryan Howard to get the game started for the offense. In the third the Phils posted a 3 spot win RBIs from Howard, Pedro Feliz, and Geoff Jenkins to take a 4-2 lead after the third.

Neither team managed a run in the fourth and in the fifth, Ryan Howard led off the inning with his 13th home run of the season, his third in two games and this third hit of the night for the Phils.

Kendrick though ran into trouble in the bottom of the sixth inning. After plunking Carlos Lee, he allowed Hunter Pence to single, who was followed by a Ty Wiggington double to bring home the two base runners. Kendrick was yanked from the game with a 5-4 lead, but that would be quickly erased as Geoff Blum would single to left allowing Wiggington to score to even up the game.

Both teams turned the game over to the bullpen and it would be up to the relievers to determine the outcome of this game.

Fortunately for the Phils, the Astros pen was a little more off then they were. In the top of the eighth, Pat Burrell led off the inning with a pinch hit home run to take the lead and supply the eventual game winning run. The Phils would tack on one more in the eighth on an RBI single from Chase Utley, and Brad Lidge came on to secure his 12th save of the season.

Friday night, the Phils send Adam Eaton to the mound against Brandon Backe. Ryan Howard is 6-10 in his last two games with 3 home runs and 6 RBIs, and is finally looking to be back in MVP form.

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