Since coming off the DL, Howard has only three hits.
Plain and simple, the Phillies play to the level of their competition. If they're playing a good team, they're going to pick their game up and come up with the plays they need when they need them in order to win.
We saw the best example of that this season right before the All-Star break in their four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds. It wasn't always pretty, but four consecutive wins, three in extra innings, showed the Phils can pull out close wins against good teams.
It's something championship-caliber teams have to be able to do.
However, with the recent four-game series against the Houston Astros, we see a glimpse of why the Phillies might not be World Series material.
Even though they will play up to their competition when they need to, they can also play down to the level of a bad team long enough to get swept and really put themselves in a hole for a playoff push.
And, again, it's a problem that comes back to Charlie Manuel.
Of course it's also on the players to understand they must approach every game like it's the middle of October, but the manager's job is to make sure his team is in the right frame of mind and playing to the best of their abilities; right now, Manuel's not doing that.
He did a great job of keeping the team together through the injuries and getting the backups to play at a high level, but now that the pieces are all back in place it seems like he quits doing his job and takes it for granted.
Bottom line is there's absolutely no reason for the Phillies to have lost four straight games to the Astros, as well as the numerous games they've lost to other, let's say, sub-par teams such as the Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs (another four-game sweep), and Pittsburgh Pirates.
The good news, however, is that the 76-50 San Diego Padres (weird still, right?) are next up for the Phils, so they'll probably find a way to win this series and get everyone to stop talking about their pathetic display against the Astros and two former Phillies starters.