Ryan Howard has been a slugger of special talents over his first 176 big-league games. But he went to another level - and deck - Tuesday.
Howard had two homers, a triple and drove in all seven runs the Phillies scored against the Yankees. Somehow, it came in a game the Phillies lost 9-7.
The young Phillie has become the premier slugger in the game in Albert Pujols' injury-caused absence. He tied Pujols for the major league lead in homers with 25 and passed Pujols for the major league lead in RBI (66). And when it comes to starting a career with power, Howard is in short company with Mark McGwire.
In his 606 career at-bats, Howard has 49 homers. Compare that to McGwire, who holds the record for reaching 50 career homers in the shortest number of games. In his first 610 at-bats, McGwire had 52 homers.
The two homers Howard hit against Mike Mussina on Tuesday were an example of how far his power can reach. The first homer came on an inside fastball that he crushed into right field's third deck at Citizens Bank Park - the first homer to ever reach those seats. The second homer came on a good curveball by Mussina
that broke low and hard and was on the outer half of the plate. Howard tattooed it into the left-center field seats.
"He can hit it out of this ballpark to every which side of it," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Howard. "I'm glad that we don't have to see any more of him after (Wednesday)."
When the field's hitter-friendly dimensions were mentioned, Torre said, "It didn't matter on those two balls. They're out of Yellowstone Park."