LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ryan Howard’s ended June in miserable fashion.
The three-time All-Star was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts Sunday in the Philadelphia Phillies 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is hitless in 20 consecutive at-bats with 11 strikeouts.
“I’m not happy about it,” the 2006 NL MVP said. “Obviously, you don’t go out there and say: ‘I want to go 0-for-this entire trip.’ It’s a battle and a grind, and it’s a very frustrating game at times. You’ve got to take the good with the bad. To get out of slumps, you have to hit the ball and have the ball find grass. You can’t get out of a slump if you don’t keep swinging.”
Howard didn’t play on Friday and Saturday because left-handers started for Los Angeles.
“I understood exactly what was going on,” the 10-year veteran said. “There was really nothing more needed to be said after that. If I knew what was wrong, I wouldn’t be in a slump, I guess. Sometimes it takes just one thing to get it back. But right now, I just kind of feel in-between and I’m having a little problem staying back right now.”
Manager Charlie Manuel doesn’t expect his cleanup hitter’s slide to last much longer after extra work with hitting coaches Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner. Howard will get another day off Monday before the team begins a three-game series at Pittsburgh.
“I definitely wanted to put Ryan back against the right-hander today and see what he could do,” Manuel said. “We’re going to keep working with him because we definitely need for him to hit, and we need to get him right. And believe me, we’re going to keep trying.”
Yasiel Puig ended his sensational first month in the bigs with his first four-hit game for the Dodgers, who got seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball from Stephen Fife. The Phillies fell a season-worst 9 1-2 games out of first place in the NL East.
Kyle Kendrick (7-5) gave up four runs and 10 hits in six innings. The right-hander was saved by his batting helmet in the sixth when a pitch glanced off the back of it as he tried to duck out of the way.
Fife (3-2) had five strikeouts in his second straight win. The right-hander has a 2.21 ERA over in six starts since being inserted into the rotation on June 3.
Fife squatted on the front slope of the mound, showing concern for Kendrick before the Phillies pitcher went to first base. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt came out to settle down Fife, who induced Michael Young to hit into a forceout and got Chase Utley to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“He came up to bunt in the third inning and I sailed one over his head, which was completely unintentional. Then in the sixth, I actually hit him in the head,” Fife said. “For me, there are rules in this game — and one of them is, never hit a pitcher. So I got a little rattled. My biggest worry is that he would leave the game with a concussion. I didn’t really see the blow, but I heard the noise. I probably owe him more than an apology. It’s not something I intend to do ever again.”
Puig, a 22-year-old Cuban defector, was 7 for 16 in the series — including a single that drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the Dodgers’ 6-4 win on Thursday. He has 14 multi-hit games, seven of them with more than two.
Puig finished June with 44 hits, surpassing the 42 by Pittsburgh’s Bob Elliott in September 1939 for the second-most in a player’s first full calendar month in the major leagues. Joe DiMaggio had 48 in May 1936.
“Obviously, the league is going to start to make adjustments when they start figuring out what counts and what pitches he may struggle with or have less success with,” the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins said. “And then he’ll have to readjust his game. But right now, he’s done everything he needs to do.”
Puig got his first major league triple in the fifth inning and scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s double for a 4-0 lead.
Puig singled his first two times up and stole second base both times, scoring the game’s first run in the fourth on a single by Hanley Ramirez. He finished the month with a .436 average, 16 RBIs and seven home runs — all of them in his first 19 games.
“Puig’s definitely brought an energy and a spark to us, and his skill level, I think, is a little more than anybody anticipated it would be,” Fife said. “Ever since he first got here, I’ve had a lot of friends and family ask me: ‘Hey, what’s it like?’ And I just say: ‘Keep watching, because it’s going to be historic.’ And as it’s turned out, it’s been a pretty historic start. He appears to me to be a complete package of a top-tier ballplayer.”
NOTES: Phillies CF Ben Revere was 9 for 16 in the series and finished June with a .354 average. … The only reason Puig was able to lead off the Dodgers’ three-run fourth was because Fife was picked off first base by catcher Carlos Ruiz for the final out in the third. …RHP Carlos Zambrano, who signed a minor league contract with the Phillies on May 15, left his start on Friday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley after two innings because of what Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. described as “serious pain” in his shoulder. Zambrano was placed on the Triple-A DL on Saturday.
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