Howard Must Snap Out of His Slump

Howard Must Snap Out of His Slump

PHILADELPHIA -- Just to the left of the 374-foot marker in left-center field at Citizen's Bank Park, sandwiched between advertisements for Southwest Airlines and Budweiser, is a sign that brings in no money but may be just as valuable to helping the Phillies cash in this World Series. It is of a microphone between the letters HK, and it is commemorating late Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, who passed away earlier this season. For the fans and the team, it serves as a reminder of the man whose distinct baritone was the voice of the team for nearly four decades. For Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, it is something else: his latest target in an ongoing effort to shake a puzzling and powerful slump.

During batting practice before Game 5 on Monday night, Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson pointed to the sign and in an effort to remind Howard to try using the entire field, told his struggling slugger, "You're going to hit one to the HK sign today." After Philadelphia's 8-6 win. Thompson shrugged his shoulders and said with a chuckle. "I was wrong."

It was easy for Thompson to smile on Monday after another of his hitters, Chase Utley, smacked two more home runs to give him a record-tying five in the Series and lead the Phillies long-awaited offensive outburst to victory. But as Thompson well knows, the ongoing slump of Howard's remains no laughing matter. As the series shifts to New York, all signs point to it continuing. Not only did Howard not hit the ball to the wall on Monday, he didn't hit the ball at all. In the latest miserable game of an increasingly miserable series, he went 0 for 2 with two strikeouts, bringing his total to a World Series-record-tying 12 with still one (and perhaps two) games remaining. He has gone just 3 for 19 in the series with one RBI. And since going 2 for 5 in Game 1 with two doubles and an RBI, he has stranded all seven batters he has had on base, and has hit the ball out of the infield just twice.

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