Trailing, 6-4, with the bases loaded and one out, rehabbing Major League veteran Ryan Howard had some special advice for Phillies prospect Chris Duffy.
"I was on deck and he went up to bat," Duffy said. "He goes, "'Duff, be ready to win this game.' I said, 'Yes, sir.'"
Howard hit a sacrifice fly to draw within one and then Duffy came through with a two-RBI walk-off single to give the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws a 7-6 win over the West Virginia Power.
Duffy finished the game 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs. Howard, who tore his left Achilles tendon in the final game of last year's National League Division Series against the Cardinals, also went 2-for-4 and knocked in three as the team's designated hitter.
The victory marked the first time this year that the BlueClaws won a game in which they trailed after eight innings (1-42).
"Whenever you come back in a game, in any game, that's what you play for," Duffy said. "It's the attitude and the mentality that you have to never give up and always try."
After going 0-for-2 in his first two at-bats, Duffy hit a homer in the eighth before his game-winner in the ninth. Howard, meanwhile, singled on a line drive to center in his second at-bat and followed with a two-RBI ground-ball single through the left side in his third.
In his media session after the game, Howard said he couldn't put a percentage on his health.
"What percent? I couldn't really tell you," he said. "I don't know. I'll have to see how it feels tomorrow. I don't think it will feel too much different, but I do expect there to be some soreness, but not a lot.
"I'm not worried about my Achilles -- it's just a matter of getting back into game shape physically."
Duffy, for his part, said Howard looked strong in the box.
"His swing looked good," he said. "He made solid contact with the ball. ... He looks like he's on his way back. Hopefully he'll help the Phillies win and continue to have success."
Duffy is now batting .322 with five homers and 31 RBIs between Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater. The 24-year-old first baseman has had the opportunity to play with both Howard and Jim Thome this year, picking up whatever tips he could.
"I went up to both and asked them to tell me their secret," Duffy said. "I talked to Jim Thome for about 20 to 30 minutes, it was unreal. You could really tell that he and Ryan Howard, they feel it. They don't just talk about hitting, it's a feeling inside them. I can relate to what they're going through and what they're saying. It's pretty cool."
Howard is expected to start again for the BlueClaws on Friday, this time at first base. After missing the entire season up to this point, he's being careful not to push too hard.
"It's not hard to not rush -- I've been patient for eight or nine months now," Howard said. "Another week or two weeks isn't going to kill me. You want to be back up there as soon as you can, but you have to make sure you take the proper precautions. I'm not going to rush myself just to get back there. I have to make sure I'm good and ready to go."