Good thing they kept Ryan Howard.
The reigning NL rookie of the year looks to continue his record-setting second season and continues the Philadelphia Phillies’ drive for the NL wild card when they continue a series with the Florida Marlins on Saturday.
Howard hit his 58th homer—a three-run shot—in a 5-2 series-opening victory Friday. With fans chanting “M-V-P!” and waving white rally towels, Howard responded with a curtain call.
“I hear it. It’s a good feeling, but you have to tune it out and get locked in,” he said.
Howard has 29 homers this season at home and needs one more to break Chuck Klein’s record set in 1932. Howard also has 143 RBI, one shy of the single-season franchise record for first baseman set by Don Hurst also in 1932.
Earlier this year, Howard surpassed Mike Schmidt’s single-season home run record. Schmidt hit 48 in 1980 to lead the Phillies to their only World Series championship.
“I’ve never seen anyone like him. He’s something else,” said Florida rookie pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who gave up Howard’s latest homer.
With the win, the Phillies remained a half-game behind the Dodgers for the wild card. Los Angeles maintained its lead with a 2-0 win over Arizona on Friday.
The Phillies were 49-55 when they shipped Abreu and Lidle to the New York Yankees nearly two months ago. Since then, Philadelphia has gone 31-18 as it seeks to reach the postseason for the first time since 1993.
“They’re definitely talking winning baseball and they’re excited about everything,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
Jon Lieber (8-10, 5.03 ERA) looks to overcome some poor pitching at home against the Marlins, and bounce back from a rare loss for Philadelphia (80-73).
Lieber is 2-2 with an 8.22 ERA in four starts against the Marlins this season. But in two losses at Citizens Bank Ballpark, he’s lasted a total of 11 2-3 innings, and has given up 13 runs and 19 hits for a 10.03 ERA.
The left-hander was unbeaten in his last seven starts heading into a matchup against the Chicago Cubs on Monday. He lasted just 2 1-3 innings, allowing five runs and five hits in an 11-6 loss and did not comment following the game.
With a first-inning double, Florida’s Miguel Cabrera became the fourth player in major league history with 25 homers and 50 doubles before turning 24, joining St. Louis’ Albert Pujols (2003), Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez (1996) and Detroit’s Hank Greenberg (1934).
Despite that, the Marlins (76-78) are five games behind the Dodgers for the wild card.
Brian Moehler (7-9, 6.09) looks for his first win since four starts since rejoining Florida’s rotation. The right-hander has taken over the Josh Johnson’s starting spot after the rookie was diagnosed with a strained forearm that will sideline him for the remainder of the regular season.
Moehler has made three starts this month, going 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA. His loss came in a 4-0 defeat to New York on Monday that allowed the Mets to clinch their first division title in 18 years.
“Guys are still working hard, showing up early and working,” Moehler said. “No one is quitting. Guys are busting our butts.”
He’s 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in two starts this season against the Phillies with the loss coming in Philadelphia on July 30.
Howard is hitting .455 (5-for-11) two doubles and a homer against Moehler.