Without the offensive prowess that Howard displayed during the second half of the regular season and during the first two rounds of the postseason, the Phillies likely would not have returned to the World Series.
But as the Phillies lamented Wednesday night's 7-3, Game 6 loss to the Yankees and began venturing into the offseason, there was reason to wonder if this World Series might have been different had Howard not suddenly transformed from being a record run producer to the latest owner of a dubious Fall Classic record.
"I feel cool," Howard said after being asked about his World Series performance. "The only thing I can do now is go home relax and get ready for Spring Training."
When Howard drilled a two-run, sixth-inning homer during Wednesday night's clinching loss, he made a six-run deficit look a little more respectable and also provided more reason to wonder what might have been had he not hit .174 with one homer, three RBIs and a record-setting 13 strikeouts over the course of this six-game series.
With this blast, Howard recorded his 17th RBI of this postseason, matching the National League record shared by Rich Aurilia (2002) and Pudge Rodriguez (2003).
Two innings later, Howard etched his named in the dubious portion of the record book.
Swing and a miss
Howard's final at-bat of this Series started with him looking at Damaso Marte's first two pitches of the eighth inning and concluded with a swing-and-miss that proved to be all too familiar over the course of the past week. It was Howard's record-setting 13th strikeout of the series, surpassing the record total that Kansas City's Willie Wilson had amassed against the Phillies during the 1980 World Series.
"It's just that sometimes you've got it and sometimes you don't," Howard said.
When Howard hit .379 with two homers and 14 RBIs during the first eight games of this year's postseason, he certainly had what it took to carry the Phillies to this World Series. With an RBI in each of these games, he joined Yankees legend Lou Gehrig as the only players to record an RBI in eight consecutive postseason games. One day later, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez joined this select group.
But during the final seven games that Howard played during this postseason, he hit just .160 with one homer, three RBIs and 14 strikeouts.
Howard's World Series began in auspicious style as he recorded a pair of doubles in a Game 1 victory. But before hitting his inconsequential homer against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte on Wednesday, the powerful first baseman had recorded just one hit in his previous 16 at-bats.
"You see when guys go good and when guys go bad," Howard said. "It's nothing new. It's nothing that surprises you. It's just part of the game."