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News » Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-05-05

Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-05-05

Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-05-05
Ryan Howard has been baseball's most prolific home-run hitter for the past three seasons. But Albert Pujols is widely regarded as the best player in the Nationals League.

So as Howard returned Monday to his native St. Louis, the comparisons to Pujols resumed.

"Ryan Howard is very competitive," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of his slugging first baseman. "He has a lot of respect for Albert. He thinks Albert's a great player. I've heard him say that a lot, and I think he definitely wants to compete with that. Albert's such a great hitter, such a great baseball player. I think that drives Ryan, too."

And, as always when the Phils visit the Cardinals, St. Louis' native son outdid its best player.

Howard upstaged Pujols on Monday night, continuing his dominance in his hometown and tying Mike Schmidt's franchise record with his seventh career grand slam in the Phillies' 6-1 win.

"I'm an Albert Pujols fan," Howard said. "Albert and I are friends. I like to check him out, watch the highlights and see what goes on. It's very important to me as far as what I want to do and the kind of player I want to be. I don't want to be a one-dimensional type player. I want to go out there and focus on other aspects of my game."

That's why Howard shed 20 pounds after the Phillies won the World Series and left his newly built home in St. Louis in early January to train in Tampa. While his agent was negotiating his three-year, $54-million contract, Howard worked on his defense several times a week with new Phillies infield coach Sam Perlozzo.

And although he's batting .293 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 23 games, it's Howard's defense -- he hasn't committed an error and has made several spectacular plays -- that has the Phillies most pleased.

Slugging remains Howard's forte, though. And after Jayson Werth belted a two-run homer in the fourth inning and Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse loaded the bases in the fifth, Howard went deep.

With his parents, brother, sister and several friends in attendance, Howard went 2-for-3 and improved to .383 (23-for-60) with seven homers and 28 RBI in 16 games at the new Busch Stadium, which stands next to the site of the demolished ballpark where he grew up watching games.

"It's just coming home, playing in front of family and friends," Howard said. "Here, for me, it's like where it all kind of began. It's a special feeling coming home."

Said Manuel, "Ryan is a special player. His home-run numbers, for a guy that's played a short period of time, go through the record books and try to find someone any better. Those are things he definitely has to get credit for."

PHILLIES 6, CARDINALS 1: Ryan Howard tied Mike Schmidt's franchise record with his seventh career grand slam in the fifth inning to lift the Phillies to a victory in the opener of a two-game series at Busch Stadium.

Howard, a St. Louis native, is batting .383 (23-for-60) with seven home runs and 28 RBIs in 16 career games at new Busch Stadium. Joe Blanton earned his first victory in his fifth start by allowing one run on four hits in six innings. Jayson Werth belted a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Howard and Werth had two hits apiece for the Phillies, who won for the seventh time in nine games.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 5, 2009

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