Howard's Blast Becomes Instant Legend

Ryan Howard is a big man who has hit a lot of long home runs in his relatively short professional baseball career. In the two-plus years of Citizens Bank Park, no player has hit a ball farther than Howard's solo shot in the second inning of the Phillies' 4-2 win over the Marlins. The estimate for the blast, which sailed over the brick walls that keep guard beyond the center-field fence, was 496 feet.

"After Howie hit it, I said, 'Hey, one 500-foot homer at a time and we're going to win this game,'" teammate Aaron Rowand said.

Ryan Howard actually hit two home runs in the game, and it was the second, shorter drive - a two-run poke to left-center field in the third inning - that provided the deciding runs, just to prove that length doesn't matter. That homer completed a three-run inning and gave the Phillies a 4-0 lead.

What was different Sunday was Howard's place in the order. After batting sixth for most of the opening two weeks and then moving to seventh for a few games, Howard was batting fifth as manager Charlie Manuel, emboldened by the fact that the Marlins have no southpaw relief pitchers, stacked five left-handed bats at the top of his lineup. Howard entered the game with only five RBI on the season, and even with the two homers and three RBIs he is still a distant fourth on the team in RBIs behind Chase Utley (15), Bobby Abreu (15) and Pat Burrell (13). A big reason why is that he only has come to the plate 10 times with runners in scoring position this season. Burrell, meanwhile, has had 24 plate appearances with RISP.

"It's still early," said Howard, who despite hitting 10 homers this spring claimed that he wasn't seeing the ball as well as he wanted. "I haven't had a lot of opportunities. "I'm starting to feel better. I'm seeing the ball how I want to see it."

Howard's performance might have earned him another chance to hit fifth Monday when the Phils begin a four-game series with the Rockies.

"I might leave him where he's at because he hit those two jacks," said Manuel, who was ejected from the game along with Utley by oft-confronted umpire Dan Iassogna after arguing a missed call at first base in the bottom of the first. "I was mad because I didn't get to see (the first homer). I saw it on TV."

Howard took the questions about his place in the batting order like a pro. He said that, sure, if he were making out the lineup card he would bat himself anywhere from third to fifth in the order.

"If I were a player and manager," Howard said. "(In the majors), it's a little different. We have other guys who can get the job done.

"But have I gone into the manager's office a requested (to be moved up)? That's not me, not who I am. Whatever lineup he throws up there, I'm fine with it."

REPLAY: Right-hander Brett Myers allowed two runs over six innings as the Phils won for just the third time in 11 home games, beating the Marlins 4-2.

David Bell, who only entered the game in the second inning after Chase Utley was ejected for arguing a call, came up with a key, two-out RBI single in the third inning that set up Ryan Howard's second homer, a two-run shot.

PHILLY NOTES

  • 3B David Bell had to be ready for action Sunday. He started the game on the bench but had to come in during the second inning when 2B Chase Utley was ejected for arguing a call at first base. Bell immediately had three plays in the field, then in his first plate appearance in the third came up with a key, two-out RBI single.
  • OF David Dellucci made his second start of the season for the Phillies in left field. He went 0-for-3 and is hitting .111 (2-for-18) on the season.
  • RHP Brett Myers gave up a leadoff double, a pair of two-out walks and needed 27 pitches to escape the first inning Sunday. Two starts earlier in Atlanta, Myers lambasted himself after a second-straight, five-inning outing that was brought on by high pitch counts.

    This time Myers settled in and pitched one batter into the seventh before handing a two-run lead to the bullpen.

    "I knew it's an aggressive team, that I just had to get them swinging at good pitches," said Myers (2-0), who became the first Phillies pitcher with more than one win on the season. He lowered his ERA to 3.04.

  • RHP Tom Gordon struck out the side in the ninth inning Sunday to improve to 5-for-5 in save opportunities. Gordon has struck out 15.3 batters per nine innings this season.

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