Ryan Howard putting too much on shoulders

It’s not surprising that Ryan Howard seems to be pressing at the plate in recent weeks. The Phillies’ underwhelming lineup has been full of substitutes and slumping hitters, putting an unhealthy load on the slugging first baseman.

“And that’s why I think he’s trying to do too much at times,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “That’s especially when we get people on base.”

That hasn’t been the case lately. Prior to Monday night’s 10-run, 14-hit outburst, the team had been averaging just 1.7 runs and five hits per game.

“So Ryan tries to do it all by himself,” Manuel said. “It’s tough.”

When Howard isn’t locked in, odds are that he’ll fish out of the zone. Entering last night’s game, he was 13-for-73 in May, including an epic 0-for-23 slump from May 14-21.

“That’s what makes it tough,” Manuel said. “They hope he’ll get himself out. They’re not going to throw him a strike. They throw the ball out of the strike zone and that doesn’t make it easy, if you swing at bad balls.”

Manuel believes Howard can be disciplined at the plate because he already witnessed it.

“Ryan’s best year [his 2006 MVP season], he hit .300 [.313] and he had a .427 [on-base percentage, actually a .425 OBP].

“He had about 120 walks [actually 108]. He got good balls to hit that season and he smoked them.”

Despite a dip in average this season, the Big Piece has been productive. Howard entered last night with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs — ranking eighth and third, respectively, in those categories in the NL.

“There’s no doubt that Howard drives in runs,” Manuel said. “I just think he could hit .300, too.”

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