Thursday, September 22, 2005

A grand ol' time

Where would the Phillies be without Ryan Howard?

You've heard people say, "It's all about the kids." The Phillies are giving those five words a whole new meaning.

A rookie, getting his chance in the big leagues because the injured high-priced superstar can't play, Howard has made us all forget about the country bumpkin with a big stick ... what's his name again?

Only time will tell, but last night may have been Ryan Howard's defining moment, the stuff legends are made of.

The Phillies had already blown leads of 3-0 and 6-3 and were tied 6-6 in the top of the 10th. The Astros, up by 2 games in the wild-card hunt, might as well have been taunting, the Turner Field out-of-town scoreboard showing a 12-8 victory for the hunted.

With the bases loaded, his face dripping with sweat from a humid Atlanta night, Howard stepped to the plate against lefty reliever John Foster.

Lefty on lefty, a situation that did not favor the Phillies. You see, Howard does not hit southpaws particularly well. In fact, he has been terrible: seven hits in 59 at-bats with 30 strikeouts and no home runs.

Until last night, when he drove that fastball to the opposite field, clearing the left-field fence for a grand slam and what proved to be a 10-6 victory.

The Phillies remain two games behind the Astros with 11 left to play. It sounds funny to say, but that is a lot better than three games.

What makes baseball such a difficult game is Howard's heroics of last night are now but a single moment to be remembered or forgotten. It will mean nothing with a loss tonight or another failed attempt at making the postseason. Or it could be a defining moment of a season, maybe even a blossoming young career.