By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
August 8 2014, 12:00PM EDT.
PHILADELPHIA - It's no secret that things have not gone well this year for Ryan Howard, but he enters Friday's series opener against the Mets swinging a hot bat.
Howard led the Phillies to a series sweep of the Astros on Thursday with an eighth inning go-ahead grand slam, capping off a a solid series at the plate where he finished 5-for-14 with a pair of home runs and eight RBIs.
"He was really aggressive," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said of Howard's grand slam at-bat. "He had good swings and he was really battling. He laid off some breaking balls down low and made [Tony Sipp] come in with a strike."
The Phillies sit 11 games below .500 and a distant 10 games off the pace in the Wild Card race, but the club has shown signs of life winning nine of their previous 14 contests.
"Nice to be on a little roll here," Sandberg said. "Let's see if it can continue."
A.J. Burnett is scheduled to start for the Phillies on Friday, hoping to improve on his 6-11 record and 4.16 ERA. The right-hander lasted only 1 2/3 innings in an 11-0 loss at Washington on Saturday and gave up five runs -- one earned. He has lost back-to-back starts and is only 1-5 in his last six decisions.
The Mets will counter Friday with Bartolo Colon.
The 41-year-old right-hander is one win shy of reaching 200 for his career and joining Juan Marichal and former Phillie Pedro Martinez as the only Dominican-born pitchers to reach the milestone.
"This is important to me," Colon said earlier this week. "I want to be in the same group as Pedro, I want to be in that club."
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