Updated: June 17, 2008, 11:31 AM ET

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AP Photo/Tom Mihalek

Ryan Howard racked up 11 total bases on Monday with two homers and a triple.

Don't look now, but Howard is red-hot
You know your pitching staff has had a tough night when noted speedsters Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell hit triples in back-to-back innings.

Of course, it's nothing to worry about if you're a Boston Red Sox fan. Bartolo Colon is hardly a good long-term fantasy asset, and 60-year-old Mike Timlin did the rest of the damage. Two old, past-their-prime pitchers got hit. Things are still fine for the defending champs.

Things are also fine in Philly. Fantasy owners have enjoyed the play of potential MVP Chase Utley and suddenly trusted Burrell, but Howard's owners are still complaining about a batting average that topped the .220 mark on Monday for the first time since April 5. Howard's triple was a bomb to center field that ticked off the glove of diving center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and seeing the speed and head-first slide to third base was quite a rousing sight, but the two opposite-field home runs Howard hit earlier off Colon were more telling.

When the lefty hitting Howard is hitting the ball 400 feet to left field, good things are happening with his swing, and he's showing progress the past few weeks. In fact, while you were whining about his average, Howard has been terribly hot, with a pair of multi-homer games since Friday, and four games with four or more RBIs over his past eight games. The last major leaguer with four such RBI games in an eight-game span was Albert Belle in 2000. All told, despite the slow start, Howard is tied with San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez for the NL lead in RBIs, and those first basemen each have 19 home runs, just three behind Utley. Howard is on pace for 43 home runs and 140 RBIs, pretty much what he did in 2007.

Well, the batting average does remain low, and if you're one of the rare fantasy players in a league in which hitters' strikeouts count, then Howard shouldn't be coveted, since he's on pace to break his own major league record for whiffs. But hey, you're getting the power. Howard's batting average isn't likely to approach .300 -- he somehow hit .313 in 2006 -- if he continues this pace for 218 strikeouts. He also isn't hitting many singles, which means he's become an all-or-nothing hitter, a similar-but-better version of Adam Dunn. By the way, you probably think Dunn is a lot older than Howard, since this is his eighth season and Howard's fifth. Actually, Dunn is all of 10 days older, that's it.

Don't sweat this shocking revelation in fantasy, though. Dunn hits 40 homers every year, and you know if you draft him, you would have been smart to select Ichiro Suzuki a few rounds earlier. Howard isn't at that point yet, where you have to assume he's hurting your batting average, but he's probably on his way. He's still capable of lifting that average well above .220, maybe into the .260 range again.

As for the odds of Howard and Burrell each hitting a three-bagger in the same game, the duo entered the proceedings with combined career totals of 15 triples in 1,699 games. Just call it one of those nights, Red Sox fans, and go get 'em Tuesday.

Past editions: 6/16: Wang out of action | 6/15: Headley to rescue | 6/14: New York mess

Box Score Bits
Lost in yet another Phillies outburst was fine performance from Cole Hamels, who has averaged eight innings in his past three outings and allowed just four runs in that span. Oddly, all four runs have come on solo home runs. Hamels delivered his ninth quality start, tying him with Adam Eaton for the club lead. No, really. … Opposing pitcher Colon, however, threw four messy innings, permitting three home runs and six hits. Colon had allowed two home runs in his previous five starts. The team said he was pulled from the game not because Howard and pals were pounding him, but due to back tightness, no doubt suffered with his wild, flailing swings at the plate. Hamels fanned Colon twice. See, Hank Steinbrenner was right, AL pitchers should not hit. … Manny Ramirez was back in the lineup for the Red Sox, but he wasn't effective, going 0-for-4 and hitting into a double play. In daily leagues, he might get a rest Tuesday or Wednesday, or both. … On a night with only five games Howard wasn't the only player to hit multiple home runs. Detroit's Marcus Thames hit a pair off Tim Lincecum, meaning seven of his 12 home runs have come off right-handed pitching this season. … In Anaheim, the Mets' Carlos Beltran hit home runs in the first and third innings off Jered Weaver, and also stole a base. Fantasy owners whine quite a bit about Beltran, but he is on pace for a 23/21 season, with 110 RBIs and 120 runs. You want something to whine about? With Beltran acting as the DH Monday, New York's starting outfield was Marlon Anderson, Endy Chavez and Trot Nixon. Wow! … Fantasy owners have been adding Angels middle reliever Jose Arredondo, who entered Monday with a 0.69 ERA and no runs allowed in more than a month. Then the Mets, of course, scored twice off him in the seventh inning. … Jair Jurrjens was probably not a great spot start for Monday, since he had missed his last start with a sore ankle after falling down the Wrigley Field steps, and was pitching Monday at Coors Field. Then the right-hander delivered 7 2/3 scoreless frames over the Rockies, permitting eight hits and two walks, but no runs. Go figure. This was a makeup game from April 10, which was snowed out. Jurrjens leads all rookies with seven wins. … Meanwhile, opponent Ubaldo Jimenez, a fantasy darling a year ago, hasn't won since April 8, a span of 13 starts. Only two NL pitchers have issued more walks than Jimenez this season. … "Slumping" Chipper Jones singled twice and knocked in a pair of runs. He's not the only Brave in the lineup hitting .400. New left fielder Brandon Jones, recalled less than a week ago, singled twice and knocked in two, and now sports a .471 batting average in 17 at-bats. Neither of these fellas will hit .400. … Mariners manager John McLaren, spared his job for now while team GM Bill Bavasi was fired Monday, has decided the team will be better off with gold glove center fielder Ichiro Suzuki moving back to right field, where his lack of power is more evident, and where he last played in 2006. The seemingly meaningless tinkering paid no dividends Monday, as Ichiro singled in five at-bats, but stole his 30th base. Among those now vying for time in center include the offensively-challenged Jeremy Reed and Willie Bloomquist. The latter started in center field Monday, singled twice and raised his average to .189. Meanwhile, disappointing rookie Wladimir Balentien, who had stared in center, was sent back to the minors after the game, with fellow prospect Jeff Clement coming back to take his place on the roster. Maybe McLaren should move beleaguered pitcher Carlos Silva, who last won a game two months ago, to left field and really shake things up.


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Standing Out

Andrew Miller, Marlins
He's not been consistent, but Miller keeps showing why he was such a highly-touted prospect with the Tigers. He threw his second consecutive 7-inning, 1-run start, allowing a total of 13 baserunners in that span, striking out nine.

Mike Pelfrey, Mets
He may have gotten the "W," but at what price? Pelfrey gave up six runs on eight hits, walked two but struck out none. Cut him a bit of slack, though, as the peripheral stats are similar to a previous start in which he went six shutout innings. Everything evens out in the end.
News and Notes
The news on Chien-Ming Wang got worse as Monday turned from day to night. As reported in this space Monday, Wang's injured right foot landed him on the DL, but as the day went on the timeframe for a return went from six weeks to possibly having the rest of his season in jeopardy. The Yankees hope to have Wang back in September. Fantasy owners should hope there's a good free agent available, and feel free to look elsewhere than Yankee Stadium for pitching help. Career minor leaguer Dan Giese, 31, should start in Wang's place Saturday. ... On the other side of town, the Mets don't appear to be expecting Orlando Hernandez back anytime soon. The New York Daily News reported El Duque could rejoin the team a month after the All-Star break. ... Speaking of injured pitchers, but a far less durable one, Mike Hampton and his sore pectoral muscle should begin a rehab assignment this week with hopes of returning to the Braves in a few weeks. ... The Braves expect to activate Mike Gonzalez from the DL before Wednesday's game, and with Rafael Soriano on the DL, the lefty should earn saves right away. Of course, we've been touting this scenario in ESPN Fantasy for a month now. ... About an hour before game time, first baseman Kevin Youkilis was scratched with muscle spasms in his back, suffered during batting practice, and hit machine Sean Casey got the start. The Mayor singled and doubled. ... And there's even more Red Sox injury talk! David Ortiz had the cast removed from his left wrist and should start testing it Tuesday. There remains no official timetable for his return. ... Meanwhile, in lovely Coca Cola Park in Allentown, Pa., Daisuke Matsuzaka weathered a two-hour rain delay, then threw five innings for Pawtucket against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Matsuzaka allowed three hits and a walk among his 65 pitches, 47 of which were strikes, and two earned runs. Justin Masterson is scheduled to start Wednesday in Philadelphia, and Matsuzaka could take his rotation spot the next time around.
They Wrote It

"[Mets GM Omar] Minaya and his assistant, Tony Bernazard, walked around the lobby of the team hotel Monday 'like grim reapers,' in the eyes of a staff member. And after weeks of leak-fed speculation and boardroom backstabbing and indecision, they did their bidding, fired manager Willie Randolph, pitching coach Rick Peterson and first-base coach Tom Nieto. Even the writers of "The Sopranos" could not have invented a more recklessly handled hit. "

-- Buster Olney Full Story


• The Tigers thought they were welcoming back Fernando Rodney from the DL, after not pitching in the majors this season due to right shoulder tendinitis, then watched in horror as he gave up three runs while getting one out Monday. Rodney helped turn a 4-3 lead into an 8-4 deficit. Joel Zumaya, who allowed an unearned run in an inning of work for Triple-A Toledo on Monday, should pass Rodney as the Tigers' setup man when he comes off the DL later this week.

• Ten days after designating Sidney Ponson for assignment, the Rangers released the portly Aruban knight. Ponson was 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA in nine starts for Texas, but look closer at the 1.563 WHIP, his track record and how good a teammate he is. Even the desperate Yankees likely will avoid Ponson.

• For the second straight Monday, the Nationals optioned right-hander Tyler Clippard to Triple-A Columbus. Clippard has a 1.839 WHIP after two starts, and who knows when he'll get a third? Catcher Paul Lo Duca is expected to come off the DL to fill the roster spot Tuesday.

On the Farm

Felix Pie, who didn't hit with the Cubs and isn't doing much better at Triple-A Iowa with a .215 batting average, doubled, homered and knocked in four runs Monday against Nashville. Pie has five home runs and three stolen bases in 32 games for Iowa, and a .267 on-base percentage. Jim Edmonds, no matter how he does, is safe for now.

• Remember George Kottaras, who was supposed to be the catcher of the future for the Padres? Kottaras homered for Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, his 11th of the season, but the 25-year-old is hitting .217. A lefty hitter, he's hitting .199 against right-handed pitching. Kottaras was acquired by Boston from San Diego in September 2006 in the David Wells trade. If and when captain Jason Varitek is done, Kottaras probably isn't the replacement.

• Dodgers middle infield prospect Chin-lung Hu, demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas a week ago, was placed on the minor league DL with blurry vision in his right eye. Hu hasn't done much hitting for the past year, which was proven when the Dodgers had to trade for Angel Berroa. There's still no sign of when Rafael Furcal will be back.