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Howard ready to face tough lefty relievers

Howard ready to face tough lefty relievers

LOS ANGELES -- It seems unlikely that Joe Torre will make the same mistake.

Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy has taken heat for not using left-hander Joe Beimel against Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard with two outs in the top of the ninth inning Monday in Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Coors Field. Tracy stuck with closer Huston Street, and Howard doubled to right field to score two runs to tie the game. The Phillies took the lead one batter later when Jayson Werth singled to score Howard from second.

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Phillies at a glance
2009 record: 93-69
2008 record: 92-70
NL East champs
NLCS matchup:
Phillies at Dodgers
Postseason tix: Information

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Madson: Back in business
Werth: Heart of the order
Rollins: Awaiting breakout
Focus: One game at a time
Manuel: Mix & match
Howard: Ready for lefties
Stairs: Shot reverberates
Manuel: New rules for 'pen
Blanton: Arm around team
Pedro: Return to spotlight
Ibanez: Eyes on prize
Rollins: '07 irrelevant
Lidge: Still an option
Lidge: Killer cutter
Roster: Mulling options
Ibanez: Perfect fit
Hamels: Path of the pros
Amaro: Bold decisions
Pedro: Elated to play part
Rollins: No more predictions
Hamels: Back in business
Pitching: Staff in flux
Manuel: Keeps 'em focused
Hamels: Aims for dominance
Lineup: Imperfect but solid
Lee: Ready for playoff debut
Howard: The evolution
Rollins: Excelling on defense
Rotation: Not just big two
Manuel: Steady as she goes
Rollins: Eyes on '09 drama
Howard: The 'Big Piece'
Lee: Lifting Phils' hopes

The Dodgers are likely to run three left-handed relief pitchers against Howard in the National League Championship Series -- George Sherrill, Hong-Chih Kuo and Scott Elbert -- and Howard's success against them could help define the series.

"Those are the matchups that you have to face," Howard said. "Sherrill and Kuo are very, very good. Hopefully, we can try to work good ABs against them. If it comes to that, we'll see what happens."

Howard is not the only left-hander the Dodgers have to worry about. They also have to worry about Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez, but Utley and Ibanez have had better success against left-handers this season. Howard hit .319 with 39 homers, 108 RBIs, a .395 on-base percentage and a .691 slugging percentage in 395 at-bats against right-handers this season. He hit just .207 with six homers, 33 RBIs, a .298 on-base percentage and a .653 slugging percentage in 222 at-bats against left-handers.

"It's pitch selection," Howard said. "It's just trying to get good pitches to hit."

Howard is 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his career against Kuo. He has never faced Sherrill or Elbert, who has struck out 14 of 36 left-handers he has faced this season.

"The regular season is behind us," Howard said. "All I'm focused on is what's going on right now."

Howard hit .375 (6-for-16) with three doubles and six RBIs in the NLDS. He has hit .288 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 21 career playoff games. As the Phillies entered the dugout in the ninth inning Monday, Howard showed he is not afraid of the big moment.

"Give me a shot," Howard told his teammates. "Get me up."

They got him up and he delivered against the righty Street. In the NLCS, it likely will be Howard against Kuo, Sherrill or Elbert.

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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