Does Howard Deserve Blame for Phillies Collapse?

| by Off The Record

With the Philadelphia Phillies tied with the St. Louis Cardinals at 2-2 and facing Game 5 tonight, you’d think there needs to be some sort of explanation. Sure, the Cardinals have a nice team, but nothing compared to this Phillies team that is stacked to bejesus and back with pitching.

The easy scapegoat has been Ryan Howard, the team’s $100+ million man who has been awful since Game 1. In Game 1, he popped a three-run homer for the ages and drove two more in later. It looked like he would put the team on his back and carry them to the NLCS. That, ummm, hasn’t happened. He’s been terrible since then. So this has to be his fault, right?

Well, he should shoulder some blame, but no one wants to blame this pitching staff? This “best staff ever” group of pitchers that haven’t done their jobs?

In Game 1, Roy Halladay gave up a three-run homer in the first inning to get the team down 3-0. Sure, after that he settled into being Roy and carved up the St. Louis offense. The Phils were able to dig out of it and rout the Cardinals for what turned out to be an easy Game 1 win.

The second game? The team gave Cliff Lee – the mighty can-do-no-wrong Cliff Lee – a four-run lead. FOUR runs. That should be game-set-match, correct? It wasn’t. Cliff blew the lead and the Phils lost.

The only guy that did his job so far was Cole Hamels. He didn’t have his best stuff in Game 3, but still pitched six shutout innings and the Phillies hung on for the win. Roy Oswalt in Game 4? Pitched extremely well except for really one inning, when he got knocked around. Bad. He gave up five runs in five innings. They could get Randy Wolf to do that. That’s not was dream team pitchers are supposed to do.

The problem is that all these scenarios were played out before the season even started. “Boy, just give Cliff Lee a lead and than it’s lights out.” But no, that hasn’t happened and no one wants to call them out. It’s easier to blame Howard.

Make no mistake about it, if the Cardinals take down Game 5 and go on to the NLCS, this starting pitching staff is to blame. This is not what the team was expecting out of them.