Howard working on improving walk rate

Howard working on improving walk rate

DENVER -- Ryan Howard took a big pinch-hit walk in the ninth inning Thursday against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

It led to Ben Revere's game-winning single up the middle to help the Phillies avoid a sweep at home before they opened a 10-game road trip Friday at Coors Field. It was Howard's 10th walk of the season, which leads the team.

"That's been stressed to the team from day one," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Making the pitchers throw strikes and taking the walks if they're given. And with a lineup that has balance there's a guy behind them that's a good hitter. That's been a message all the way along. And I think he's been more selective overall. He's taken walks. And sooner or later if he continues to do that the pitchers will see they have to come at him. With his swing, I think his swing path is in the strike zone where he can hit strikes, lefties or righties. I think he's making some good progress there and having quality at-bats."

Howard, who is hitting .231 with three home runs and seven RBIs, is averaging a walk every 6.20 plate appearances this season, which is the second-best rate of his career. He averaged a walk every 6.06 plate appearances since 2007, but had averaged a walk only every 10.29 plate appearances from 2010-13.

"Yesterday that at-bat was huge," Sandberg said. "The guy didn't throw him many strikes so he didn't go up there just swinging away and going fishing out of the zone. He took the walk there and got Ben up there who was having a hot day. He's the one that drove in the winning run. That was big. That's what we're talking about."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.