The slugging first baseman looks to continue his torrid hitting and lead the Phillies to their third straight victory over the Florida Marlins as the clubs continue their four-game set Saturday.
After going 2-for-4 with a solo home run and three runs scored in Thursday’s series-opening 14-8 Phillies (72-69) victory, Howard provided all of Philadelphia’s offense in Friday’s 3-2 win by going 3-for-4 with two homers, a double and three RBIs.
Howard’s 56 homers lead the major leagues, and the 26-year-old first baseman joins Jimmie Foxx in 1932 and Babe Ruth in 1921 as the only players in history to hit at least 56 home runs in a season at age 26 or younger.
Howard—the reigning NL rookie of the year—has 28 home runs since the All-Star break, and his numbers in the last few weeks are even more phenomenal. In 16 games since Aug. 23, Howard is batting .464 (26-for-56) with 13 homers, 26 RBIs, 20 runs scored, a .569 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of 1.214.
“A little bit,” Howard said when asked if he was amazing himself. “But as soon as something like today happens, you try to forget it as soon as possible. You try not to get sucked in by everything that’s going on and stay focused on the task at hand, which is trying to get into the playoffs.”
The Phillies have won 16 of their last 25 games and remain in second place in the NL wild card race after Friday’s victory, 1 1/2 games behind the San Diego Padres. Florida has dropped three of four and is tied for fourth with Cincinnati, trailing the Padres by 3 1/2 games.
“We need to win a couple more,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Brett Myers (10-6, 4.09 ERA) looks for his fourth consecutive quality start when he takes the mound for Philadelphia. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA, a .195 opponent batting average and 26 strikeouts in 22 innings over his last three outings.
Myers struck out 10 on Sunday and yielded just one run and three hits over eight innings, but did not receive a decision in the 3-1 defeat in 11 innings to Atlanta.
He is 7-1 despite a deceivingly-high 4.26 ERA in 13 road starts this season, and is 5-5 with a 4.64 ERA in 15 career starts versus the Marlins.
Florida’s Brian Moehler (7-8, 6.18) makes his second straight start replacing rookie right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who is out with a sore right hamstring. Moehler began the season in the rotation and remained there through a July 30 loss at Philadelphia, when he gave up four runs in 5 1-3 innings.
He’s fared much better out of the bullpen, going 5-8 with a 6.95 ERA in 17 starts versus 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in eight relief appearances. Moehler allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings on Monday, failing to record a decision in an 8-5 victory over Arizona.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.47 ERA in six career appearances, including three starts, against Philadelphia.
Howard is 3-for-9 with a homer and a double in his career against Moehler, while Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell is 5-for-9 with two home runs.