By Mary Cunningham

If you’re looking for green shoots of hope in the Phillies’ two-week slide into mediocrity, Tommy Joseph (above left with Carlos Ruiz) will do quite nicely.

He went 2-for-4 with a single off Cubs left-hander Jon Lester in the seventh inning last night and a solo homer against closer Hector Rondon in the ninth.

He is hitting .375 (9-for-24) with one double, two home runs and three RBIs in his six consecutive starts since Phillies manager Pete Mackanin benched Ryan Howard.

Joseph and Howard have been good together, despite the incessant talk about Howard’s role and future with the team. Last week, Howard gave Joseph a pep talk immediately following the news that Mackanin planned to play Joseph.

“Tommy’s been great, man,” Howard said. “He’s had great at-bats. Really just taking it all in stride. He’s been doing a great job.”

Mackanin said Howard will start tonight against Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, but he acknowledged it is tough to sit Joseph on a team starved for offense.

“It’s very tough,” he said. “Even if I do stay with Joseph more often, I still have to keep [Howard] sharp and give him an opportunity to hit to do something for us.”

But the Joseph should be back in the lineup Wednesday.


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