Don't try to do too much. Stay within yourself. The phrases have become snooze-inducing baseball clichés, but they carry real meaning for hitters like Ryan Howard, whose career has been defined by prodigious home-run totals - and copious strikeouts.
But Howard has shown growth this October, driving in timely runs with singles, doubles, and triples. Despite his well-publicized slugging, Howard has just two home runs in this postseason, including a two-run blast in the first inning last night.
Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson views that as a positive development. "He's a run producer," Thompson said. "That means you find any way you can to drive in the run. On a 2-0 pitch, you can get too geared up for a fastball, and end up swinging and missing on something else."
Asked if Howard was doing less of that lately, Thompson said: "Absolutely."
Although the playoffs provide a statistical sample too small for conclusions, this month's numbers back Thompson's view.
Howard finished the regular season with a .279 batting average and a .360 on-base percentage. In the division series, those numbers were .286 and .375, and he tied the deciding game by poking a two-run double into right field. In the first three games of the National League Championship Series, the numbers were .400 and .588.
"It's the same thing I have always said," Howard said. "You're just up there looking for a good pitch to hit."
Howard shrugged when asked if he was better at that than he used to be. "I don't know, to be honest," he said.
But Thompson sees improvement.
"When you follow the ball, when you track the ball, it makes it easier to hit," he said. "Ryan has been doing that."
"He looks real relaxed at the plate," manager Charlie Manuel said. "From a mechanics standpoint, he's loading up good and staying on the ball. When he's staying on the ball, he makes more consistent contact."
Durbin, pal in tweetfest
Chad Durbin pitched a scoreless ninth inning Sunday to conclude Cliff Lee's eight-inning masterpiece. He and a friend spent the next day lavishing tweeted praise on the Phils' ace.
The Twitter account shared by Durbin and his business partner Jake Chapman, at Showcase U, was abuzz with praise for Lee's performance. Showcase U provides assistance to amateur athletes attempting to market themselves to college and professional scouts.
The Chuck Norris-esque one-liners began soon after the game and appeared steadily into the afternoon. Chapman, who pitched in the minor leagues for seven years ("great lefty and great guy," Durbin said), did the actual tweeting, soliciting contributions from Durbin.
"Can Cliff Lee pitch on one night's sleep? . . . Did you know? 4 days a week, Cliff Lee works as the Philly Phanatic. . . . Cliff Lee just made breakfast for my family . . . stay hot! . . . I heard Cliff Lee just dunked on Andre Iguodala during a Sixers walk-through this morning. Amazing. . . . Cliff Lee counted to infinity . . . twice. . . . The boogie man checks under his bed at night, he's checking for Cliff Lee."
Tweet away, Chad and Jake.
Last night's game ended too late for this edition. For complete coverage, go to
The Inquirer's Web site.EndText