Howard continues to light up Cardinals pitching

Posted: June 21, 2014

ST. LOUIS - For Ryan Howard, there really is no place like home. Howard, who hails from St. Louis, has destroyed Cardinals pitching throughout his career.

As the Phillies began a four-game series Thursday at Busch Stadium, Howard acknowledged that it has special meaning to play his hometown team.

"This is where it all began for me," Howard said before the game. "There are just a lot of memories, seeing friends and family and stuff like that, and it is always a very good, relaxing feeling to come home."

At home or away, Howard has been relaxed against the Cardinals.

Entering Thursday, he was hitting .368 (67 for 182) with 17 home runs, 54 RBIs and a 1.179 OPS against the Cardinals in 50 career games.

He has done plenty of damage in Busch Stadium, where before Thursday he was also hitting .368 (35 for 95) with nine home runs, 35 RBIs and a 1.207 OPS in 26 games.

Howard did more damage Thursday night with an RBI single in the fourth inning and a two-run homer in the sixth.

He is still finding his form after recovering from Achilles tendon surgery following the 2011 season and left knee surgery last year. He has had an up-and-down season.

"It's all a work in progress," Howard said. "I am just trying to get everything back into a groove and trying to take it one game at a time."

He entered the game batting .238 with 13 home runs, 47 RBIs, a .742 OPS and a major-league-leading 89 strikeouts.

Howard and the Phillies were coming off a three-game sweep in Atlanta, where he batted .385 (5 for 13) with two homers and six RBIs.

When Howard is hitting like that, it has an impact on the rest of the lineup.

"He just showed in three games against good pitching that he can make a big difference in the games, in the way that the game feels and the way it rubs off on everybody around him," manager Ryne Sandberg said.

Howard found himself unwittingly in the news Tuesday when a fan at Atlanta's Turner Field held a sign that said: "Ryan Howard listens to Nickelback."

Apparently, the sign wasn't meant to be flattering in linking Howard's musical taste to the Canadian rock band. He has been asked a lot of questions in the last few days about a band he didn't know much about.

"I don't have Nickelback on my iPod or anything like that," Howard said with a laugh. "I listen to all kinds of music. I am sure I probably heard one of their songs, but I couldn't tell you if Nickelback was singing."

It's amazing that Howard is getting more attention regarding a band that he doesn't know much about instead of the fact that he was leading the National League with 22 RBIs in his last 22 games.

Then again, he's not worried about receiving attention for his hitting or his musical tastes. Howard said he has one goal.

"It is just a matter of trying to be a little more consistent," he said. "I want to go out there and try to do what I can to help the team win."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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