The Reading Fightin Phils opened up their Eastern League Playoff series with the Trenton Thunder on Wednesday night. With Game One being the biggest game of the season to this point, the team needed a big game pitcher on the mound. They handed the ball to top pitching prospect Spencer Howard, and he did not disappoint.
The 23-year-old Howard utterly dominated throughout his performance. He went through 5.1 innings before surrendering his first hit. He had 9 strikeouts up to that point, and his overpowering fastball had touched 98 on the radar gun.
A walk, an infield single, and a wild pitch led to Howard giving up a sacrifice fly to Trenton’s Alexander Palma in the 6th inning. This would prove to be the only blemish in Howard’s outing, as he exited the inning with no further damage, and pitched another scoreless inning as well.
Howard pitched for a season-high 7 innings, surrendering 2 hits and 2 walks. He recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts in his best outing of this season. His fastball was electric, and he was able to effectively use his curveball and changeup.
Although the Fightins’ bullpen blew a 3-1 lead in the 8th inning and lost the game 4-3, Wednesday night was all about Spencer Howard. He followed up his 2018 Single-A postseason no-hitter with an almost equally impressive Double-A playoff debut. He has been given a select amount of chances in big games, and he has certainly taken advantage.
After the game, Howard spoke about why he has been so successful in the postseason, saying, “Maybe it’s coincidence, but it’s a lot of fun playing in the playoffs.”
His knack for pitching in big-time games is something that will certainly help him when he reaches the Big Leagues.
But just when will that be?
The Phillies are in the midst of a Wild Card hunt, just 3 games behind the Cubs for the second spot in the NL Wild Card Game. Their offense has been playing much better baseball. The team has a realistic shot at this thing.
The Achilles heel that will hold them back is their lack of competent starting pitching. Their starters have an ERA of 4.87 in the last 30 days, 6th-worst in the National League.
The Phillies need to make a change. They need to do something drastic.
They need to call up Spencer Howard.
Howard is the best pitcher in the Phillies’ minor league system. He sported a 2.03 ERA in the minors this regular season and is coming off an outstanding postseason performance. He has the stuff to be a legitimate Major League pitcher, and he is the one guy in the system capable of pitching in big games down the stretch.
The Phillies’ best shot of making the playoffs in 2019 is with Spencer Howard on the roster. If they truly care about making the playoffs this season, then he will get his opportunity.
It may not work out. He may struggle to adjust to the Major League level. The team may still miss the postseason for the 8th straight season.
But as the season winds down and the games get bigger and bigger, why not give the kid a shot?