By Matthew Nadu
The Philadelphia Phillies took a Chuck Norris style blow to the gut Sunday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite blowing a four run lead with Cliff Lee on the hill at home, the Phillies still managed a split against the Red Birds as the head off to Busch Stadium III for Games 3 and 4 of the National League Divisional Series.
Now it’s Ryan Howard time.
In a city known for brews, baseball and Ryan Howard bombs, the 31-year old St. Louis native might as well be the mayor of the city with his dominance in his hometown throughout his career including an appearance during the 2009 All-Star Game.
Games 3 and 4 will be critical for the Phillies on the road and it’s no secret that their biggest offensive weapon is Howard. Fresh off his 500th career game a Citizens Bank Park, Howard is already tied for his second most runs batted in during a playoff series with 6 in just 2 games. Three of them coming on a go-ahead blast to right field in Game 1 off Kyle Lohse.
Howard has had more success at Busch Stadium III than any other National League ballpark with a career .368 batting average, 9 home runs, 36 RBI and an eye-popping .512 on-base percentage in 26 career games.
What’s astonishing about Howard’s numbers on the road in St. Louis is his power. In six season playing at St. Louis, Howard has hit a least one home run every year with a Ruthian .695 slugging percentage (measure of power.) Bottom line is Howard destroys Cardinals pitching when he’s “home.” Yet, this season has been his worst ever at his personal band box. In 2011, the lefty had career lows in BA and SP but before you go into panic mood it was only five games. In 21 plate appearances he was still able to get on base drawing five walks to go with his four hits for a stellar .475 OBS.
Game 3 Tuesday evening will see lefty on lefty, as Howard squares up against Jamie Garcia (13-7.) Although the match up is unfavorable for Howard, he’s 2-12 against Garcia in his career including a homer, the lefty has never pitched in the playoffs. Lohse will take the hill again on Wednesday and Howard should be foaming at he mouth dominating Lohse throughout his career going 8-16 with 2 HR’s, 8 RBI and a 1.475 OBS.
Howard has always had more power on the road and if Philadelphia can get men on base for “The Big Piece” the Phillies could very well wrap this series up at Busch III.
And Howard will once again be the most hated man to love this side of the Mississippi.