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09/22/08 12:00 AM ET
Howard could slug way to Aaron Award
Phillies first baseman leading Majors in home runs, RBIs
By Kevin Horan / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- If the Phillies' scorching September ends in a trip to the postseason for the second consecutive year, first baseman Ryan Howard will be a big reason why. As Phillies manager Charlie Manuel often likes to say, the key to success in baseball is to produce runs. In 2008, no one has done that as well as Howard. The 28-year-old leads the Major Leagues with 46 home runs and 141 RBIs.For his prolific run production, Howard is the Phillies' nominee for the Hank Aaron Award presented by Sharp. This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote until Sunday, Oct. 12, to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 26. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years. Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. Howard also won the award in 2006, the same year his Major League-leading 58 home runs and 149 RBIs earned him the National League MVP Award. "Ryan's our carrier," Manuel said. "When I was in Cleveland, we had more than one carrier. He's our carrier. He's the guy who puts up the big numbers. He's the guy that knocks in the 130 to 160 RBIs. He's the guy who's big in the moment." Throughout Howard's career, "the moment" has been the month of September. He is a .318 career hitter in September and October -- that's 19 points higher than he is hitting in any other individual month. This year has been no exception. In the Phils' first 16 games of September, their first baseman hit .379 (22-for-58) with eight home runs and 24 RBIs. "You just go up there with your game plan, and whatever happens after that, happens," Howard said. "You want to come through when your team needs it and provide a lift." Howard has provided that needed lift in September, even though he struggled at the plate in the season's early months. The first baseman batted .213 in August with seven homers, or two fewer than he has this month already. "When balls are falling in, it's different," Howard said. "There are some things that you could be doing when you're in a slump that you're doing when you're hitting .400. It's all about the ball falling in."
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.