The big man is back, but the little guy remains the key.
Ryan Howard is hitting the ball again with authority. His two-run walk-off homer last night provided the margin of victory as the Phillies overcame a fine effort by Tom Glavine to score all four of their runs off the Mets' bullpen in a 4-2 victory. Howard has eleven hits, two home runs, and nine rbi's in his last five games. Just as significantly, he's only struck out once during that time. Howard has shown he's a second-half late season hitter. His latest chapter couldn't have come at a more important time.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Rollins remains the real heart and soul of this team. I watched J-Roll's expressions carefully last night. Jimmy is always smiling, but when he flied out early in the game with men on base, he was thoroughly disgusted with himself. None of the usual ebullience; just disgust. He even seemed to dwell on it, as if to say, they need me and I have to come through. In the eight inning he did, blasting a line drive home run to greet reliever Pedro Feliciano and bring the Phils to within one run of the Mets. After Pat Burrell walked, Shane Victorino ran for him, stole second, went to third on a throwing error by Paul Lo Duca, and scored when Aaron Rowand's roller stayed fair as David Wright and Lo Duca watched helplessly. That set up Howard's tenth inning heroics.
Rollins is having an MVP year though he won't get nearly enough consideration when the votes are tallied. In this era of great shortstops in the NL, Rollins gets plenty of praise but still not enough. Prior to the start of the season the always honest and entertaining shortstop pronounced the Phils the team to beat in the NL East. He's taken plenty of heat ever since for his candor, but it's worth mentioning he's backed it up with his astonishing statistics: 113 runs scored (tops in the NL), 23 homers, 73 rbi's, 15 triples, 32 doubles and a .288 average. Oh, and by the way, he fields with the best them. Make no mistake about it: without Rollins the Phillies would be battling for second or third place in the Dutch West Indies League, not the NL East.