"He was totally relaxed and stayed on the ball, went with it," manager Charlie Manuel said of the home run. "The ball was out away from him and he just stayed on it, went with it."
Howard, who missed the entirety of the spring schedule and the first 3 months of last season recovering from left Achilles' surgery, has started in all six games this spring. He's in the lineup for Friday's game in Tampa against the New York Yankees, too.
Coming into spring, Manuel said he wanted to play Howard early and often in an attempt to get the guy he calls the "Big Piece" in his lineup going. So far, it's working.
Howard is 8-for-15 (.533) with three doubles and a home run this spring. He has struck out three times and walked twice.
Perhaps more impressive: He is 4-for-6 (.667) with two doubles and one strikeout against lefthanded pitchers. Howard hit .205 with 100 strikeouts in 268 at-bats against lefthanders in the last two seasons.
Howard hit an RBI double down the first-base line against Atlanta starter Paul Maholm, a lefthander, to knock in the first run of the game in the first inning.
"He's been playing everyday and they've been throwing a lot of lefties, he's been getting to see a lot - that should help him," Manuel said. "Some of those balls, like the one he hit today, are fastballs in. Hes been staying on them, especially with two strikes. It's a good sign."
Two hits for Ruf
Darin Ruf broke out of an 0-for-10 slump with hits in consecutive at-bats in Thursday's win. After hitting a single in the third for his first hit of the spring, Ruf ripped a double to left off of Kimbrel.
"He's all right, 0-for-10 don't faze me," Manuel said. "I've seen some big players get way worse than that. That's just getting started."
Ruf, making his first start in 3 days, was also charged with a two-base error in the second inning when he misplayed a line drive in leftfield.
Michael Young snapped out of his own mini-slump with a single in the third inning. Young had been hitless in his first nine spring at-bats.
Chase Utley made his first start in 3 days and went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Utley is scheduled to travel to Tampa and play in Friday's game against the Yankees ...Ben Revere (2-for-3, one double) and Freddy Galvis (2-for-2, one double) also had two hits. Galvis, who took over for Jimmy Rollins in the fifth inning, made his second error in as many days...Roy Halladay will make his second start of the spring Friday against the Yankees. Fellow righthander Hideki Kuroda is scheduled to start for New York...Phillippe Aumont is scheduled to pitch in relief Friday, his last appearance before departing camp to compete for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.