Fantasy Baseball: Hot August pickups
Howard hit his 39th homer to surpass 100 RBIs, sparking Philadelphia past the struggling Atlanta Braves 9-6 Monday night.
Howard, the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year, tied Greg Luzinski at No. 10 on the team list for homers in a season with a two-run shot in the fourth. He’s got 51 games to catch the guy at the top, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt with 48 in 1980.
“Usually, I don’t think about that kind of stat,” Howard said. “If it happens, it happens.”
Howard’s homer was the team’s first hit of the night and marked the 16th straight game in which Philadelphia has gone deep, tying the franchise record set in 2002. The Phillies broke the game open with a five-run fifth.
Even though the Phillies made a couple of deals before the trade deadline with an eye on the future, they won for the eighth time in 11 games to pull within 2 1/2 games of wild card-leading Cincinnati.
“I’m just trying to win,” Howard said. “That’s the whole focus.”
Andruw Jones hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth for Atlanta. The slugger actually shattered the bat just above his hands, trotting to first with only the handle as the barrel skidded toward the Phillies’ dugout and the ball cleared the 400-foot sign in center.
Marcus Giles also homered for the Braves, but it wasn’t enough to keep the team which has won 14 straight division titles from its eighth loss in 11 games.
“We gave up a lot of runs,” Jones said. “That made it tough. We kept battling and tried to do all we could to win the game, but we came up short.”
As if another loss wasn’t bad enough, Braves starter Horacio Ramirez left with an injured finger in the fifth. The left-hander called for the trainer after throwing a pitch and said it feels like a sprained tendon.
Ramirez, who already has been on the disabled list twice with a hamstring problem, will undergo an MRI to determine the seriousness of his injury— another blow to Atlanta’s injury-plagued rotation.
“Every time I get some good starts going, something crazy happens,” Ramirez said. “But it’s out of my hands. I’ll do the rehab and hopefully get well soon.”
With Ramirez (5-5) out of the way—the only hit he allowed in four-plus innings was Howard’s mammoth homer—the Phillies built a 7-1 lead against reliever Oscar Villareal. Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell had run-scoring doubles, while Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand chipped in with RBI singles.
The Braves also helped out with some shaky defense. Villareal tried to throw out a runner at third on Brett Myers’ sacrifice bunt, but everyone was safe. Ryan Langerhans was charged with an error after he made a catch in left field but dropped the ball when he attempted to throw home to get Rollins, who was tagging up.
Myers (8-5) lasted five innings, his shortest stint since returning from the inactive list July 16. He left the team for three weeks after being charged with striking his wife in the face.
The Braves scored three runs off Myers in the bottom of the fifth, pulling to 7-4. Giles hit a two-run homer and Francoeur singled in a run with two outs. A passed ball put runners at second and third, but Myers fanned Adam LaRoche with his final pitch.
Myers gave up seven hits, walked three and struck out four. He had gone at least six innings in four previous starts coming off his legal problems.
“I didn’t know how to pitch tonight,” Myers said. “I lost all concentration. I got away from my game plan.”
Ryan Madson pitched two scoreless innings, also coming up big with his last pitch. After Brian McCann’s double put runners at second and third with two outs, Francoeur struck out swinging to end the threat.
Philadelphia added two runs in the eighth on RBI singles by Rollins and Victorino.
Ramirez cruised through the first three innings without allowing a hit. Victorino led off the fourth by getting struck on the left elbow with a pitch, prompting Braves manager Bobby Cox to argue that the hitter made no effort to get out of the way.
The Braves barely missed turning a double play on Chase Utley before Howard drove a pitch deep into the right-field seats. Francoeur barely moved as the shot cleared the wall.
The Phillies improved to 48-0 when leading after eight innings. They are the only NL team to have a perfect record in those situations. … Braves teammates Edgar Renteria and Tyler Yates both celebrated birthdays. Renteria turned 31, while Yates is two years younger. … Atlanta has lost 23 of its last 33 games at Turner Field.