The two most important names in the Phillies lineup are beginning to make significant contributions. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are beginning to show some signs of life, which is great news for a struggling offense.
After being back with the Phillies for several weeks, Utley is beginning to look like his old self. After managing just six hits in his first nine games, he has 12 hits in his last nine. Not only is he beginning to consistently get base hits, but he’s getting big hits at critical moments.
In Saturday’s game against the Cubs, Utley hit a two-run double and a two-run home run. His hits helped the Phillies pull away from the Cubs in the third game of the series. On Sunday he went two for three with a walk. His key at-bat came in the 7th inning, when he doubled to put himself and Shane Victorino in scoring position for Ryan Howard, who then drove in both players with a base hit. It looks as though the second baseman is beginning to settle in and get his timing down.
While his batting average is still down, Howard has been finding ways to remain productive. He has 11 RBIs in his last 10 games. He only had 15 RBis in the entire month of May.
Howard would be a much a better player if he consistently had the patience that he had on display in several of his at-bats from this weekend.
On Saturday, the first baseman was facing Chicago lefthander Sean Marshall with one out and Victorino at third base. Howard swung and missed at two curveballs, but was smart enough to hold back over the next few pitches, and work the count back in his favor.
On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, he hit a line drive to right field to score Victorino. The slugger continued to show great patience on Sunday. He went 3-3 at the plate, and drove in three runs, including the key base hit in the 7th inning that gave the Phillies the lead. He didn’t chase bad breaking pitches that sometimes fool him.
The Phillies offense is going to need more strong performances like the ones they just got from Utley and Howard. If the two former All-Stars can discover some consistency, it will go a long way towards helping the team score more than three runs in a game.