Howard looks for a better day at the plate Sunday when the Phillies wrap up their three-game series with the Florida Marlins at Dolphin Stadium.
Howard set a Phillies record with 58 homers and drove in a major league-best 149 runs last season en route to being named NL MVP. However, he is just 3-for-19 so far this season, with no RBIs or extra-base hits.
“It’s just matter of him getting his timing,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. “He’s not hitting the ball like he is definitely capable of. We need him to do it.”
Howard’s slump continued on Saturday, when he went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and stranded five runners in the Phillies’ 8-5 loss to the Marlins. He is 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
“All he needs is that one, and here it comes,” said Florida starter Dontrelle Willis, who pitched six innings for his second win. “He’s a friend of mine, and I’m rooting for him, but not against us, because he’s a guy who can single-handedly carry a team into the postseason. I just pray he keeps struggling against us.”
The Phillies (1-4) are batting a respectable .262 with 22 runs scored in five games this season, but their only win was Friday’s 8-2 victory in the series opener. Philadelphia was swept at home in three games by Atlanta to open the season.
“It’s definitely not a time to panic,” said second baseman Chase Utley, who went 2-for-5 with his first RBI of the season. “Overall our starting pitchers have done a good job keeping us in the game, but we haven’t came up with the key hit with guys on base.”
Jimmy Rollins, who has a hit in every game for Philadelphia, went 2-for-4 with a three-run inside-the-park homer on Saturday - his third home run overall this season.
The Marlins (3-2), meanwhile, are batting .307 and have scored at least eight runs in all three of their wins. Josh Willingham drove in four runs Saturday with a homer, a triple and a double, but struck out in the seventh to fall a single shy becoming the first Marlin ever to hit for the cycle.
Scott Olsen (1-0, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Marlins in Sunday’s series finale. The 23-year-old left-hander had a strong season debut, giving up two runs in 5 1-3 innings and picking up a double, single and RBI at the plate in Tuesday’s 9-3 win in Washington.
“If he can pitch like that every time out, we’ll be in business,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Olsen is 1-4 with a 5.53 ERA in six career starts against the Phillies.
Philadelphia will counter with Zack Segovia, who is making his major league debut. The right-hander, who turns 24 on Wednesday, went 0-2 with a 4.30 ERA in four spring training games.
Segovia, who underwent ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow more than two seasons ago, went 16-6 with a 2.82 ERA in 24 appearances for Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading last season.