Tommy Joseph homers twice in Phillies' loss, officially takes over Ryan Howard's job



WASHINGTON — Jeremy Hellickson blew a four-run lead and the Phillies suffered a 9-6 loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
Hellickson gave up three homers and seven runs (see Instant Replay). Afterward, he owned the loss.
“The guys spotted me a four-run lead,” he said. “I’ve got to make that stand up. This loss is definitely on me.”
Now that the standard housekeeping is out of the way, let’s move on to the latest developments in the biggest drama surrounding this team.
Tommy Joseph hit a pair of two-run home runs, one that helped the Phillies build their early 4-0 lead and one that closed the deficit to three runs after they’d blown the lead.
Both of the home runs — one off Stephen Strasburg, the other off Felipe Rivero — were crushed.
Joseph’s big game gave him seven homers in his first 21 games with the Phillies. No Phillie has ever gotten to seven homers faster.
Joseph’s big night also solidified a watershed decision that manager Pete Mackanin made before the game. Several hours before the first pitch, Mackanin spoke with Ryan Howard and essentially told him he’d lost his job as the team’s primary first baseman to the 24-year-old rookie Joseph.
“I can’t say enough about Tommy Joseph,” Mackanin said after the game. “He looks like the real deal and it’s great to have him here.
“I talked to Ryan today and told him, ‘I’ve got to go with Tommy Joseph right now.’ I can’t sit Tommy Joseph. I can’t justify not playing the guy.”
Mackanin said Howard took the news “pretty laid back.” There was no tension during the meeting.
Howard was not available for comment after the game, but he’s been around long enough to know this was coming. He recently sat out five games as Mackanin took a look at Joseph. The newcomer shined in those games. In 21 games since arriving from Triple A, Joseph is hitting .323 (21 for 65) with seven homers and 12 RBIs. His slugging percentage is .677 and his on-base percentage is .333.
By contrast, Howard is hitting .150 with nine homers and 20 RBIs in 52 games. He is slugging just .346 and his on-base percentage is just .213.
Howard, 36, was the NL MVP a decade ago. He was the middle-of-the-order rock on five NL East championship teams and a World Series title team. He is no longer that player, however. He is still owed about $25 million in a contract that runs out after this season. The job of letting a club icon down easily has fallen in the lap of Mackanin.
“I flat-out don’t like it,” Mackanin said. “I don’t like to have to deal with it because of what he’s done for the organization over the years. Once again, this is another year where we’re looking to the future and Tommy Joseph is looking like he’s probably going to be in the future.”
Sitting won’t be easy on Howard. He has said he will not quit. Ownership seems reluctant to release him because of all he did in the organization’s run of success from 2007 to 2011. Howard has also done great charitable works in the region.
So what’s the solution?
“I don’t have a solution,” Mackanin said. “I’m just going to try to get Howard some at-bats, pinch-hit, maybe spot start him here and there. That’s the only solution I have.”
Joseph knows the torch has been passed. He has handled his success with humility and shown Howard respect.
“He’s the best,” Joseph said of Howard. “The best.
“He’s been great. Very easy to talk to. He’s been there for me every step of the way whenever I need something and he’s a good guy to learn from.”
The Phillies acquired Joseph four years ago from San Francisco in the Hunter Pence trade. A series of concussions robbed him of development time and forced him to give up catching and move to first base. Joseph’s career was on the rocks as recently as October when the Phillies waived him off their 40-man roster. He could have been selected in the Rule 5 draft, but 29 other teams passed. The Phillies brought him to minor-league spring training camp for what looked like a last chance in March and he pounced on it.
Joseph always had a good bat and it’s clear he still does. He’s also finally healthy. It has all added up to the hottest run of his career.
“This is what I prepared for all winter long, not only physically but mentally,” Joseph said. “This is what I wanted, an opportunity to play in the big leagues. I’m enjoying my time. I’ve come up through the minor leagues with a lot of these guys and to get the opportunity to play with them in the big leagues — I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

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