© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

09/05/06 9:47 PM ET

Howard NL's best player in August

Slugger belted 14 homers, kept Phils in Wild Card race

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies slugger Ryan Howard achieved a life-long goal with a home run on Aug. 1. Thirty days later, he set a club record with another blast, setting a single-season team record with 49 homers.

In between, Howard, the Phils' mammoth first baseman, clubbed 12 more homers and drove in 37 runs, establishing Philly as a National League Wild Card contender. He also captured the Bank of America NL Player of the Month Award for August.

The slugger also won NL Player of the Week for the last week of the month, hitting .571 (16-for-28) with six homers and 12 RBIs.

"He's done so much and is having an MVP year," Phils outfielder David Dellucci said. "I think we need to congratulate him and make him feel like what he's done has been an incredible feat. The amazing part of it is that he's not hitting wall scrapers. He's hitting balls where very few people have ever gone."

"He should be recognized for what he's done for this team," Dellucci added.

The runaway winner, Howard crushed NL pitching, batting .348 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs -- the most in a month since Frank Howard drove in 41 for the Senators in July 1962.

"He's having a tremendous year, especially for a second-year guy," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said of the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner. "And he keeps right on improving. I won't give him too many days off."

Ryan Howard's output helped the Phils -- 49-55 after dealing cornerstone Bobby Abreu and pitcher Cory Lidle at the trade deadline -- win 17 of 28 games, finishing the month at 66-67 and just 1 1/2 games out of the race.

The month also vaulted Howard into serious consideration for the NL MVP Award.

"For what it's worth, he's my MVP, but I don't get to vote," left-hander Randy Wolf said. "I don't know how he's not in the top three. When you watch him for four months last year, you realize how good he is. At the same time, I think the one thing that I'm impressed with is how he treats success. He's always the same guy, always trying to get better."

The night-in-night-out consistency of the Phils slugger places him on an elite pedestal with the Cardinals' Albert Pujols, Mets' David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes and the Astros' Lance Berkman.

"It's not often that you play with a superstar in the making, but maybe once in a career," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "[The media] want to talk to him every night, so it starts right there."

Howard keyed the attack on the month's opening day. A native St. Louisan, Howard -- batting in front of 40 family and friends -- celebrated his first game at Busch Stadium with a homer and three RBIs, helping the Phillies defeat the Cardinals, 5-3.

"It means a lot to come home and play and play well," he said.

On Aug. 31, Howard blasted a moon shot that traveled more than 450 feet at Washington's RFK Stadium, breaking Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt's single-season team record of 48 homers set in 1980.

At that point, though, the gargantuan blasts were occurring with such frequency that some teammates started expected them every contest.

"It's normal. I'm getting tired of watching, really," righty Brett Myers said with a laugh. "It happens every night."

And it almost did. Howard drove in a run in 23 of 29 games and blasted a ball over the fence in 14 contests.

"He's as dangerous at they come," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.

The left-handed power hitter also provided his best games against the league's top squads, the Mets and Cardinals. In four series against the two teams, Howard hit .370 (17-for-46) with six homers.

"I try [to step up]," Howard said. "I just try to provide a spark and do what I can. It's usually one hit or one play ... something."

And those hits and plays added up to one of the most remarkable months baseball has seen in many years.

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.