PHILADELPHIA -- The "MVP" chants that had been missing since late September are now flowing freely throughout Citizens Bank Park.
These accolades had been stored up over a period of 13 games, and they are finally raining down upon Ryan Howard. The Phillies first baseman smacked two homers on Sunday night to lift his team to a 10-2 win against the Rays in Game 4, putting Philadelphia one victory away from its first World Series title since 1980.
"That's the kind of stuff you dream of when you're a teenager," Howard said. "Getting to the game, obviously, you want to win, but being able to do something like that, and just to help my team win, it's a great feeling."
The Phillies relied on Howard's power and timely hitting throughout September to surge to a National League East title. The first baseman hit 11 home runs in the season's final month, complemented by a .352 batting average (31-for-88).
When the postseason started, however, the power stopped. Howard entered the World Series homerless in the playoffs, with a .258 average (8-for-31).
Rays manager Joe Maddon certainly wasn't counting Howard out. In the American League Championship Series, Maddon witnessed Red Sox slugger David Ortiz continuously struggle at the plate, only to finally break out of his slump in a big way, blasting a three-run home run in Game 5.
"I kept saying, 'I don't trust him,'" Maddon said of Ortiz. "I have not been around Ryan as often or as many times, but again, you know how good he is. Guys like that -- those big power guys -- when they hit them, it normally comes in bunches."
Double the Power
Ryan Howard became the 46th player in World Series history to hit two homers in a game with his two blasts in Game 4 on Sunday night. Here are the multihomer games since 1995:
That's exactly what happened to Howard on Sunday. As the Major Leagues' most prolific home run hitter during the regular season, Howard made his presence felt with a long ball in Game 3. His first home run on Sunday night was a three-run shot that broke Game 4 wide open and his second was a two-run blast that put icing on the Phillies' victory. His five RBIs on Sunday night is a feat only accomplished once before by a Phillies hitter in the World Series -- Milt Thompson, the team's current hitting coach, did it in Game 4 of the 1993 Fall Classic.
Not only have the home runs come in bunches for Howard, but they have come in bunches for the Phillies, as well. Jayson Werth and pitcher Joe Blanton added home runs of their own on Sunday night.
But it was Howard's home run in the fourth that got the barrage started.
"He's a carrier," manager Charlie Manuel said. "And a carrier is somebody that can take your team and get the big hits and knock in runs, and he can put you on your back and he can carry you. And that's one of my favorite statements."
For Howard, hearing that kind of praise and listening to the "MVP" chants is nice, but one thing, more than anything, kept him going during his 13-game homerless drought in the postseason.
"We were winning," the first baseman said. "When you get to the playoffs, it's not about individual goals or individual stats and stuff like that. It's a team effort. And the automatic thing is, you're trying to win a championship."
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.