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Ryan Howard’s disappearing act

Much has been made of Alex Rodriguez’s World Series struggles, but after his two-run blast on Saturday night, the focus has now shifted to Ryan Howard, who is just 2-for-13 with nine strikeouts over the first three games of the series.

Howard struck out in six straight at-bats between Game 2 and Game 3. He has yet to draw a walk during the series. The Philadelphia slugger is just three strikeouts away from tying Willie Wilson,who set a World Series record in 1980 by striking out 12 times.

“I mean, hey, that’s baseball,” Howard said. “You have it one day, it may not be there the next day. The only thing you can do is show up again the next day.”

It might not be Howard as much as an overt strategy by New York. Nine of Howard’s 13 plate appearances have been against southpaws, of which he is batting .222 (two doubles vs. CC Sabathia in Game 1). The Yankees have given him a steady diet of curve balls and sliders low-and-away. With five strikeouts in nine at-bats against left-handers, Howard is chasing the breaking pitches with regularity. The Yankees seem to be well aware of Howard’s feeble .653 OPS against left-handers during the regular season and are taking advantage of it.