Rookie Howard aims for growth as Phillies meet Nationals

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The Philadelphia Phillies will open a crucial four-game homestand against the visiting Washington Nationals with a rookie right-hander on the mound.

Spencer Howard, one of the most prized prospects in the organization, will look to continue the Phillies’ recent surge in his fourth start of the season.

Though the Phillies fell 12-10 Sunday night to the Atlanta Braves, they rallied from a 10-0 deficit and still took two of three in the series.

Howard, who’s 0-1 with a 6.17 ERA, has yet to pitch more than 4 2/3 innings in any of his three starts.

He will be making his first start since Aug. 20 and he realizes that he must command all of his pitches to be successful.

“Probably some of it stems from not locating offspeed as well so these teams tend to gear more towards the fastball,” Howard said. “I’m just trying to get back to where I can have good locations with all my pitches.”

Despite a rough beginning, the young pitcher already has plenty of support from the entire organization.

“He’s got big-league stuff,” Bryce Harper said of Howard. “Everybody knows that. It’s just trying to hone it in, calm it down a little bit. He’s going to be just fine for us. We’re very excited about what we’ve seen. He just has to get comfortable and have some fun. Enjoy his time. He’s a guy that’s going to be a dude for us.”

The Phillies had their five-game winning streak snapped on Sunday but received home runs from Rhys Hoskins, Roman Quinn and Andrew McCutchen.

The defending World Series champion Nationals continue to struggle as they’ve lost five of six, including a 9-5 setback Sunday against the Boston Red Sox.

But Trea Turner did extend his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games. Eric Thames and Josh Harrison each homered for Washington.

But the Nationals hardly resemble the same team as the one celebrating a World Series last season.

“We never panicked last year, even when we were 19-31 and all that stuff in May,” Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle said. “As rough as things are right now, guys aren’t panicking.”

Manager Dave Martinez said that he’s encouraged by the lineup.

“We’re starting to swing the bats,” Martinez said. “We’re scoring runs. We’ve just got to get our starting pitching figured out and then we’ll go from there. But the lineup is starting to swing the bat.”

Erick Fedde (1-2, 3.57 ERA) will start against the Phillies for a second consecutive time.

Fedde lasted five innings on Aug. 25 and gave up seven hits and four runs. In six career appearances against the Phillies, with five starts, Fedde is 2-2 with a 4.78 ERA.

“He pitched well,” Martinez said of Fedde’s last outing. “He fell behind a couple times, worked his way out of some jams with the double plays. When he’s throwing ground balls, that’s when I know he’s pitching well.”

This will be Fedde’s seventh game this season and his fourth start.

“I think in the first couple innings I had a lot better fastball command than I probably did there at the end,” Fedde said following his last start. “It started off the way I liked, and had a couple double plays, which are my best friend.”

–Field Level Media

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