By Sam Bush
Ryan Howard has really broken out of the worst slump of his career!
He homered and drove in three runs to help the Phillies beat the Chicago Cubs 7-4 Sunday.
Howard is batting .131 (13 for 99) with three homers and 40 strikeouts vs. lefties. He’s hitting .255 (93 for 365) with 19 homers and 66 RBI against righties. Mackanin didn’t pitch-hit for Howard in the seventh against lefty Clayton Richard (3-2) with a runner on third and one out. But he plans to do so in similar spots, depending on who is in the bullpen.
“I talked to him about it and he doesn’t agree with me, but he understands,” Mackanin said.
The 2006 NL MVP may not get a chance to face lefties much the rest of this season after striking out in an important spot in the seventh, but he did the job early.
Howard had a sacrifice fly in the first and hit a two-run shot to right to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead in the third. It was Howard’s first homer since Aug. 25 and 22nd this season.
“I told him: `You can get your act together against lefties next year in spring training,” interim manager Pete Mackanin said.
Chris Coghlan hit a homer and two triples for the Cubs, who lost two straight to the team with the worst record in the majors. Chicago still has a comfortable lead over San Francisco for the second NL wild-card spot.
“I’m just glad we’re not in the same division as the Phillies,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after Chicago finished the season 2-5 against the Phils.
Aaron Altherr scored the go-ahead run in the seventh on a wild pitch by Richard with two outs. Altherr hit a triple to left-center and scored one out later when Richard’s fastball bounced in front of the plate and skipped to the backstop.
Freddy Galvis hit a two-run double in the eighth to make it 7-4.
Dalier Hinojosa (1-0) gave up one unearned run in one inning to earn his first major league win. Jerome Williams tossed a perfect eighth and Ken Gilesfinished for his 13th straight save since replacing Jonathan Papelbon after the All-Star closer was traded to Washington.
The Cubs tied it at 4 in the seventh when second baseman Cesar Hernandezbooted Anthony Rizzo’s bouncer for an error with runners at first and third. Hernandez collided with Rizzo and left the game with a dislocated left thumb.
Phillies starter Aaron Harang allowed three runs and six hits, striking out five in five innings. He’s winless in eight starts since July 30.