With the Phillies down 6-3 in the bottom of the ninth last night, Tommy Joseph stood in and crushed a home run to dead center field off Cubs reliever Hector Rondon. The Phillies offense had failed to get anything going all evening, but with no outs in their final at-bat, Joseph had helped keep their late rally going and make it a two-run game.
While they would go onto lose, this is hardly the first time Joseph has come through for the Phillies since his promotion from Lehigh Valley on May 13. Since then, the 24-year-old who had been working his way back from a career forced off course by multiple concussions has been able to put up numbers the Phillies haven't seen from their first base slot in quite some time and forcing them to consider giving him full-time work. According to Jim Salisbury of Comcast Sports Net, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is getting close to a decision on the matter.
"The whole thing is delicate and a lot of it concerns me," Mackanin said Monday. "I'm sure [Howard's] not happy about the position he's in. I'm not happy about it. I've got to do something at some point, we'll see what happens. It's not a lot of fun.
"I'm just gonna get a look at him [Tuesday], see how he looks, and I'll probably make a decision on how I'll handle the whole thing in the near future."
Ryan Howard's decline, a failed platoon experiment with Darin Ruf this season, and Joseph destroying minor league pitching led to Joseph's appearance on the major league roster, where he has slashed .311/.313/.590 with five home runs in 61 AB, often as the clean-up hitter. Compare that to Howard's .150 BA on the season - only eight points worse than Ruf's prior to his demotion - and it is easy to see why the Phillies might want Joseph in the lineup every day.
Though it seems an easy choice statistically, the Phillies seem to realize that the situation with Howard requires nuance. The veteran's performance has been unarguably poor as he attempts to weather the storm, even having a beer bottle thrown at him by an ignorant "fan" this past week. Whatever conversation Mackanin plans to have with Howard, it is sounding like the 36-year-old former slugger is going to be called into the manager's office soon.
Howard's notorious struggles against lefties (.218/.294/.418 vs. LHP in his career; .125 BA against them in 2016) and the Phillies wanting an extended look at Joseph have kept Howard out of the lineup entirely the past few days, but he will see action against right-handed Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks on Tuesday night.