Ahhhhhh, those days when plans come together.
It was inevitable when the season started that Spencer Howard was going to be a part of the pitching staff at some point. As one of the 5 most talented pitchers in the organization, that type of stuff usually leads to the team carving out a role somehow, some way. This year, it took a Zack Wheeler injury to create a role, but since that point, Howard has taken off. Sure he missed a few weeks because of a shoulder injury, but the team was careful in bringing him back and on days like this, they are sure glad they did (virtually, of course).
While Howard was indeed the story of the day, the offense did put up some numbers. Everyone in the starting lineup by Andrew McCutchen got a hit and even he had two walks and a run scored. Bryce Harper and Jay Bruce continued to hit home runs, each getting a solo shot and continued climbing up the leaderboard in that category (Bruce is 5th in MLB, Harper is t-11th). They even contributed with four doubles today against Mike Leake, who has been whispered as a possible trade candidate for the Phillies. The offense put on a show, something they have done with regularity this year.
Yet even on a day when the bats get put up 8 runs on 12 hits, they weren’t the biggest story.
He buzzed through the Arizona lineup with relative ease. Seven innings, eight scattered hits, three walks and nine strikeouts. All on only 105 pitches, his designated number this year that he can’t exceed. He was helped, too, by his defense. They turned two double plays, gunned down a runner at the plate and threw a runner out trying to steal. That’s a good day.
Howard is the best hope for an ace this system had. Coming into the year, he was ranked 30th in OOTP prospect rankings and has done nothing to sway that opinion, only helping to bolster it. Barring a catastrophic injury, this could be the homegrown ace they have been looking to pair with Aaron Nola for some time.
The two teams have a getaway day tomorrow before the Phillies welcome the red-hot San Diego Padres into town.