ryan howard

The night Ryan Howard powered the Phillies to heaven's doorstep

The night Ryan Howard powered the Phillies to heaven's doorstep

The 2008 Phillies led the National League with 214 home runs.

Ryan Howard led the majors with 48 that season.

Both Howard and the Phillies played to their strength in Game 4 of the '08 World Series.

After three close games, and two one-run victories, the Phillies finally had an offensive bust-out in winning Game 4 by a score of 10-2 over the Tampa Bay Rays at Citizens Bank Park.

The win put the Phillies up three games to one in the series with Cole Hamels set to start what would be the Game 5 clincher.

Check out a full replay of Game 4 of the series Thursday night on NBC Sports Philadelphia. You will see a power display as the Phillies clubbed four home runs.

Three of the Phillies' homers came from likely sources. Howard slugged two of them and Jayson Werth added one.

The Phillies' fourth homer came off the bat off pitcher Joe Blanton, who tossed six innings of two-run ball for the win.

Blanton's solo homer into the left-field seats against Edwin Jackson in the fifth inning gave the Phils a 6-2 lead.

Blanton had joined the Phillies in a deadline trade from Oakland. Before his improbable home run, he had just one hit in 16 at-bats with the Phillies. He was the first pitcher to homer in a World Series game since Ken Holtzman of the 1974 Oakland A's.

While Blanton's home run was certainly important, it was an unexpected bonus. The right-hander was acquired to bolster the back end of the pitching rotation and he did a remarkable job in that role. Including the postseason, he made 16 starts for the '08 Phillies. The team won 12 of them.

In his prime, Howard was a guy who hit home runs in bunches. His two-homer performance in Game 4 came after he had hit one in Game 3. Howard drove in five of the Phillies' 10 runs in Game 4.

"It's the kind of stuff you dream about as a kid," he said afterward.

Howard's three-run homer in the fourth inning capped a nice at-bat against Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnanstine. Howard took two curveballs then a fastball to run the count to 2-1. Sonnanstine's next pitch was another curveball. Howard waited, kept his weight back and swatted the pitch to his favorite spot in the ballpark, the left-field seats, as the Phils took a 5-1 lead. 

The Game 4 victory improved the Phillies to 54-33 overall at Citizens Bank Park on the season. They had finished the regular season with eight wins in the final 10 home games and were 6-0 at home in the postseason with one more game remaining at home in 2008 — Game 5 of the World Series.

With Howard and Blanton leading the way, the Phils were one victory away from taking it all and they were in the place they wanted to be with the guy they wanted on the mound. Hamels was already 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA in four starts in that postseason and his legend was about to grow.

But first, enjoy Game 4. Again.

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MLB draft history: Notable 5th-round picks

MLB draft history: Notable 5th-round picks

The 2020 MLB draft will last just five rounds this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the Phillies' only picks on Day 2 of the draft are 87th, 116th and 146th.

That final pick, 146th overall, comes in Round 5, where the Phillies once drafted Ryan Howard and Rhys Hoskins. Those two players alone give the Phillies a richer draft history in the fifth round than in the third or fourth. (More here on the best players to come from the third round and fourth round.)

The Phils also selected Mickey Morandini and Mike Maddux in the fifth round. It's where they selected Cole Irvin, who's currently on the 40-man roster, and Michael Taylor, who was used in the trade to Toronto for Roy Halladay.

Howard was the best player selected in the fifth round in 2001, a round that also produced C.J. Wilson, Jim Johnson, Ryan Raburn and Skip Schumaker.

Hoskins is the only fifth-rounder from 2014 who has played 100 games in the majors.

Jake Arrieta was a fifth-rounder in 2007, selected by the Orioles.

The Phillies' first-year manager, Joe Girardi, was a fifth-round pick in 1986. There were two fifth-rounders of note in that draft: Girardi and Pat Hentgen.

And one of the five best players in baseball right now, Mookie Betts, was a fifth-round pick in 2011.

Here are the other notable fifth-rounders in MLB history:

Tier 1

Tim Rainers
Lou Whitaker
Jack Morris
Ryan Howard
Mookie Betts

Tier 2

Dwight Evans
Dave Stieb
Pat Hentgen
Jake Arrieta
Javier Vazquez
John Franco

Tier 3

Michael Young
John Valentin
Bret Boone
Brad Penny

Other notable 5th-rounders in MLB history:

Chris Archer, C.J. Wilson, Ryan Klesko, Jeff Samardzija, Mike Timlin, Dave Cash, Greg Gagne, Mickey Tettleton, J.T. Snow, Ray Durham, Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, Brandon Belt, Aubrey Huff, Lenny Harris, Ben Francisco, Steve Cishek, Ross Stripling, Daniel Hudson, J.D. Davis, Alex Avila, Charlie O'Brien, Brian Schneider, Pat Listach, Willie Upshaw, Chris Davis, Doug Mientkiewicz, Garett Atkins, Joe Crede, Mallex Smith, Cavan Biggio, Steve Buechele, Phil Gosselin, Steve Sparks, Jim Johnson, Bobby Jenks, Jake McGee.

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Remembering just how dominant that Brad Lidge-Ryan Madson bullpen was, especially in playoffs

Remembering just how dominant that Brad Lidge-Ryan Madson bullpen was, especially in playoffs

Re-airing the Phillies' 2008 postseason run, as we have been here at NBC Sports Philadelphia over the past week, has provided us with a reminder of just how talented a group of players the team had in that era of good feelings.

Rollins, Utley, Howard, Hamels, Lidge, Chooch, Victorino, Werth, Burrell ...

Those were some good ones ...

But there were many others who helped the Phillies win it all in 2008.

Complementary players. Role players. Supporting cast. Call 'em what you want. The Phils don't win without them.

Remember how good that bullpen was?

Of course, you do. Brad Lidge to this day is a reminder of how important the bullpen was for the 2008 Phillies, a team that did not give up a ninth-inning lead all season, thanks mostly to Lidge's fantastic 41-for-41 performance in save opportunities. He converted seven more in the postseason to finish 48 for 48.

But there was more to that bullpen that just Lidge. Lefty Scott Eyre was an important pickup. J.C. Romero, another lefty, and Chad Durbin were valuable setup men, and Clay Condrey an unheralded middle man.

And then there was Ryan Madson.

What a major difference maker he was for the Phillies down the stretch in 2008 and in the postseason.

As you'll be able to relive Tuesday night, the Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-5, in Game 2 of the 2008 National League Championship Series to take a two-games-to-none lead in the series.

Shane Victorino and Brett Myers, offensive stars in Game 2 of the NLDS, did it again in Game 2 of the NLCS as they combined for seven RBIs. Myers' bat (three hits, three RBIs) gave him some much-needed cushion on the mound because he couldn't completely hold back the Dodgers' offense. He gave up five runs and was gone after five innings.

The bullpen did the rest.

Durbin, Romero, Madson and Lidge combined on four scoreless innings and struck out six to nail down the win.

Lidge presided over a nervous ninth inning and walked two as the Dodgers brought the potential tying run to the plate with one out.

Matt Kemp had the first chance to dent the Phillies' perfect closer. Lidge struck him out on a 1-2 slider.

That brought up former two-time American League batting champ Nomar Garciaparra.

Lidge went back to his signature pitch — the slider — and struck out Garciaparra on three of them, each a little harder and nastier than the previous one. The final two sliders corkscrewed into the dirt and catcher Carlos Ruiz blocked both as the crowd of 45,839 exhaled and headed out of Citizens Bank Park happy.

"No way (Garciaparra) was getting a fastball," Ruiz said after the game. "You have to go with your best pitch."

The Phillies' bullpen allowed just eight earned runs over 40⅓ innings (1.79 ERA) in the 2008 postseason.

The unit was brilliant against the Dodgers in the NLCS, picking up 18⅔ innings while allowing just two earned runs (0.98). Madson pitched five scoreless innings in that series and struck out four.

Ten years earlier, Madson had been a ninth-round draft pick of the Phillies. The team bought the right-hander out of his commitment to the University of Southern California and it paid off a decade later. Madson had been groomed as a starter in the minors, but manager Larry Bowa and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan pushed to have him make the 2004 team as a reliever. The role fit his two-pitch power fastball/changeup mix.

Madson had been inconsistent in his early years in the majors. He put it all together in 2008 and recorded a 3.05 ERA in 76 games. His emergence began in spring training when pitching coach Rich Dubee gave him a stern talking-to about work ethic and commitment and how it could lead to financial reward.

"I told him, 'You're cheating yourself and your family,'" Dubee said back in October 2008. "He hadn't stepped up. He has a total-package arm, but he hadn't pitched to his capabilities. I felt he should know."

During that season, Madson, on a recommendation from teammate Tom Gordon, visited a physical therapist from Phoenix named Keith Kochner. Kochner prescribed a shoulder strengthening routine that Madson, under the supervision of Phillies athletic trainers, followed religiously. Late in the season, Madson saw results. While some pitchers were wearing down, his velocity was ticking up into the high-90s. That made his knee-buckling changeup that much better. His confidence swelled. He started attacking hitters, daring them to hit his stuff.

It's sometimes forgotten that the Phillies had to win 13 of their final 16 games to overtake the New York Mets for the 2008 NL East title.

Down the stretch that season, Madson allowed just one run in his final 14 games and carried that success right over into the postseason.

"Ryan's confidence is like a closer's right now," Lidge said during that NLCS against the Dodgers. "He's learned how to dominate guys."

And what a difference that made for the Phillies in October 2008.

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