Ryan Howard is lost at the plate. Everyone can see it. Joe Maddon was even gutsy enough to walk Chase Utley to get to the premier home run hitter and run producer in the game today. Nobody would do that, except maybe Joe Maddon, even though it was clearly the right thing to do. Now, considering the plethora of quality left-handers the Rays have in the bullpen, Manuel is left with the difficult decision of moving Howard down in the order.
It shouldn’t be difficult. Right now, Howard has very little chance of hitting anything coming out of anyone’s left hand. Moving him down and putting a righty in between he and Utley would almost assure that someone is going to get a shot at somebody they want to see. If he leaves Utley in the three hole and Howard batting clean-up, the chances of Utley or Howard seeing a right hander in a big situation are zero. It’s so simple, as long as Manuel has the guts to move his big guy out of the clean-up spot.
Do I think Manuel will move Howard? No way. He’s thrilled to be up a game. He won’t react until they’re down 3-1. Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth and Pat Burrell had better get some big hits. Victorino can’t do it forever and, as long as Howard is next to Utley in the lineup, he isn’t going to get any either, at least not late in the game.