You want a single metaphor for the Phillies topsy-turvy season thus far?
If anyone had told you Ryan Howard would have one home run and three infield singles through the first nine games would you have believed him?
Thanks to his newfound speed, Howard is hitting .355 through last night’s game. Apart from the infield hits, the most noticeable thing about Howard’s season to date is that he is hitting virtually everything on the ground and to the right side. So, the good news is he is pulling the ball, but the “bad” news is he is getting zero elevation, which is, after all, a big part of his game. As for those infield hits? I doubt even he is counting on too many more of them going forward.
Howard’s speed isn’t the only surprising development thus far. Aaron Rowand arrived in Philadelphia with a reputation as a guy who runs through walls if necessary and catches everything hit to his zip code, but he hasn’t impressed this viewer with his glove thus far. Indeed, he has misplayed a few balls and failed to reach at least one other that was playable. He seems to play in and rely on his speed to catch up with things over his head, but from the little I’ve seen to date he doesn’t go straight back all that impressively. Rowand also came to the Phillies with the label he had an average arm at best, but ironically his best play to date was the relay to Jimmy Rollins Wednesday when J-Roll nailed Atlanta’s Brian McCann at the plate by a country mile.
Gavin Floyd began the season as an experiment and in his first outing the results were disastrous. Unlike the past, when the Phillies management reversed fields quickly whenever a young pitcher stumbled, to their credit (or maybe because they didn’t have any other options???!!!) they handed Floyd the ball last night for his next start.
Staked to a five run lead in the opening frame, Floyd came right back and yielded single runs to the Braves in the bottom of the first inning and second innings. He was relying mostly on fastballs and the Braves were turning them around just as quickly. Just when it looked like the clinical trials would have to be halted, Floyd found his nasty breaking stuff, settled down and yielded only one more run while going six innings and striking out four for his first win of the season, only the second by a Phillies starter. Floyd’s breaking ball was so sharp the Braves were flailing away at balls at their shoe tops. The win was nice, but the recovery was nicer. Floyd’s and the Phils’ confidence in him received a tremendous boost.