Howard looks to continue his torrid pace and help the Phillies win their third straight when they face the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday in a matchup of division leaders.
With All-Star second baseman Chase Utley batting .226 with three RBIs in his last eight games and Pat Burrell driving in just two runs in his last eight, Howard has been providing NL East-leading Philadelphia (50-43) with a needed lift.
Howard hit two homers and drove in three runs in the Phillies’ 4-1 win over St. Louis on Thursday, the club’s second straight victory after a four-game losing streak.
Howard isn’t going to the All-Star game after getting off to a poor start to the season, but he’s been carrying the Phillies’ struggling lineup by driving in 10 of their 23 runs in the last five games. He leads the majors with 27 home runs and tops the NL with 83 RBIs.
The 2006 NL MVP is batting .353 (18-for-51) with eight homers and 18 RBIs during a season-high 13-game hitting streak - one shy of his career high.
“Find somebody that’s produced more runs than him,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. “I think that’s kind of hard to do. Who tops that? What’s the name of the game? To produce runs.”
While Howard has been red-hot, he hasn’t had much success versus the Diamondbacks (46-46) recently. He went 2-for-13 with three RBIs and six strikeouts in a four-game series at Arizona in May, and is 6-for-34 (.176) in his last 12 games versus the Diamondbacks, although he has two home runs and nine RBIs during that span.
Arizona is coming off a 7-5, 11-inning victory over Washington on Thursday that got the team back to .500 and kept it in first place in the NL West. The Diamondbacks have won three of four after going 4-11 in their previous 15.
On Thursday, Arizona led 2-0 after 8 1/2 innings and 5-2 after 9 1/2. The Diamondbacks finally won in the 11th as Stephen Drew hit a one-out RBI double and Chad Tracy added a run-scoring single with two outs.
“It just shows a lot about the team,” said Tracy, who went 3-for-6 with two RBIs. “We just kept grinding and grinding.”
Doug Davis (3-4, 3.74 ERA) looks to lead the Diamondbacks to consecutive road victories for the first time since June 6 and 7 when he takes the ball Friday.
Davis allowed three runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts in eight innings of a 4-2 loss to San Diego on Saturday, his first defeat since June 8. Despite being saddled with the loss, the left-hander has pitched well of late, posting a 2.67 ERA in his last five starts.
Davis went 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts versus the Phillies last year, and is 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA in six career starts against them.
Philadelphia counters with Kyle Kendrick (8-3, 4.39), winner of seven of his last eight decisions.
Kendrick gave up one run in six innings of a 4-2, 12-inning loss to the New York Mets on Sunday, and is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last three starts.
In his only career start against the Diamondbacks on May 7, he allowed three runs and a career high-tying 10 hits in six innings, but did not factor in the decision in a 5-4 victory.
The Phillies and Diamondbacks split their four-game set at Chase Field from May 5-8.