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Howard sees marginal improvement vs. lefties

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PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard has been a bit better against left-handed pitchers this season than the previous three, but not substantially better.

So it seemed like a no-brainer Thursday when Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg started John Mayberry Jr. at first base against Padres left-hander Eric Stults. Howard entered the afternoon with a .209/.268/.413 line against left-handed pitchers, compared with a .198/.254/.350 line the previous three seasons.

Meanwhile, Mayberry has a .273/.385/.545 line against left-handed pitching this season and a .274/.326/.528 line against them in his career.

"Well with KK [Kyle Kendrick] out there I wanted to give at-bats to Mayberry against the lefty and also the added defense with the potential of them having a lot of left-handed hitters in the lineup," Sandberg said after the game. "There were a lot of balls hit to Chase [Utley], and a couple hit to first base. But also for some defense behind KK."

But a quick look at the matchups showed Howard is 2-for-2 with two home runs and four RBIs in his career against Stults.

Despite his struggles against left-handed pitchers, Howard has started 12 of 16 games against lefties this season. He also has hit fifth eight times after hitting there twice in the season's first four games.

Mayberry went 3-for-4 with two doubles, one home run and three RBIs in the 7-3 victory.

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

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