ST. PETERSBURG — Ryan Howard's postseason woes had begun breaking down his approach in Game 1, manager Charlie Manuel said, so much so that Manuel had a chat with the major-league home run leader late Wednesday after he went 0-for-4.
Manuel remained encouraged that the slugger would find the stroke that allowed him to hit .352 in September, salvaging a .251 regular-season average. There are signs of a breakout, with eight hits in his past 21 at-bats, but Howard hasn't homered since Sept. 26 and has three RBIs in the postseason.
"Take him for granted and start throwing to him, see what happens," Manuel said. "He's had (146) RBIs, 48 home runs, check his batting averages and his run production from the seventh inning on or late in the game and see what you come up with. He will stay on my team, probably, as long as I manage it. I like him that much."
Actually Howard hit just .141 with nine homers in innings 7-9 this season, but he apparently took the chat well, doubling in his first at-bat in the second inning and singling in the fourth in Game 2. Howard wound up 2-for-5 for the game.
KNOW YOUR ROLE: Ryan Madson has found his niche as the eighth-inning bridge to closer Brad Lidge after beginning his career as a starter. Madson, 28, had a scoreless inning in Game 1, lowering his playoff ERA to 0.90 in 10 innings.
"I've had the opportunity to pitch in the eighth inning a couple of times in my career, and it's been taken away from me a couple of times as well," he said. "I'm not taking anything for granted. I've got to go out and do the job, because there's always somebody right there to take it. But it does feel good to be the guy when the phone rings in the eighth and it's going to be me."
UNTIMELY: Philadelphia left runners on second and third with one out in the second and first and third with one out in the fourth. Both times DH Greg Dobbs and 3B Pedro Feliz made the final outs. Feliz also grounded into a fielder's choice with runners on first and third to end the sixth.
PHILLERS: SS Jimmy Rollins said home plate umpire Kerwin Danley "just missed" David Price hitting his jersey with a pitch in the ninth, which would have brought the tying run to the plate.
"Forty-six thousand people screaming, maybe it was tough to hear," he said.
Brant James can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804.