It is the first of what will be many.
Having last pitched 11 days prior, Spencer Howard picked up his first major-league win Monday night against the Washington Nationals (…and their A+ social media team…) in an 8-6 Phillies victory.
The win got the team back to .500 and was their sixth win in seven games. It was also the halfway point of their season.
Manager Joe Girardi had a longer leash on Howard than in his previous outings, allowing him to finish the fifth inning for the first time in his short career, despite a loss in velocity, a two-run opposite field home run by Nationals slugger Juan Soto and a rapidly growing pitch count.
It spoke volumes that Girardi trusted his young right hander enough allow Howard to get the final two outs of the fifth and be in line for the win. Howard has undoubtedly cemented his spot in the team's rotation.
"I feel better about it now just because of what I saw tonight," Girardi said. "He used his whole repertoire. I hope today is a big step for him, that he realizes he can compete at this level and use all his pitches and have success."
Howard even got a fun surprise after the game.
"A nice, little beer shower and some baby powder," Howard said, smiling. "It was OK."
As for what Howard did on the field, he could not have envisioned a better first inning.
He struck out the side, allowing just a Howie Kendrick single. Among his strikeout victims were Soto, speedy SS Trea Turner and former Phillie Asdrubal Cabrera. He also got 1B Eric Thames to begin the second inning, which would also be his final strikeout of the night.
Howard's fastball averaged 94.1 MPH and touched the high 90's at times. His curveball flashed the 12-6 vertical movement that has the capability of baffling opposing hitters, and his changeup, especially the one he threw to strike out Soto with a full count, generated more whiffs than any other pitch in his arsenal.
“I saw his whole repertoire,” Girardi said. “He was not using it [before]. It’s not unusual for a young player not be comfortable right away and to kind of feel your way through some starts. I remember as a catcher. It’s nerve-racking… I hope today is just a big step for him, that he understands that he can really compete at this level and he can use all his pitches and have success.”
The Phillies continue a four game series with the Nationals Tuesday night (LHP Patrick Corbin vs Aaron Nola) before visiting the New York Mets for four over the Labor Day holiday weekend.