Ryan Howard has been part of Philadelphia Phillies teams that have gotten off to slow starts and wound up playing in the World Series, so he's not about to fret over beginning 2013 in less-than-ideal fashion.
Though Philadelphia's bats have begun to come around, the Miami Marlins are still trying to find their stroke.The Phillies look to continue their hot hitting as they visit the sputtering Marlins to begin a three-game set Friday night.Howard started 4 for 27 with 10 strikeouts as Philadelphia dropped five of its first seven, but he homered in an 8-3 win Tuesday and went 2 for 4 in a 7-3 victory Wednesday as the Phillies took two straight from the New York Mets.Philadelphia (4-5) also struggled to start the 2008 and '09 seasons when it won back-to-back NL championships, including a World Series title in '08."It's not about how you start, it's about how you finish," Howard told the team's official website. "I'd rather have a slow start and finish up strong and be in the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs in October. As long as we get going, that's all that matters."The Phillies have done that, scoring 25 runs in their last four games while homering three times in each of the last two."I think there's something to be said for everything being contagious," said third baseman Michael Young, 9 for 16 over the last four. "The last couple games, we've played the style of baseball we've envisioned playing. We've had a high energy level."The stress level appears to be high for Miami, which is off to a 1-8 start -- the franchise's worst since beginning the 1998 season 1-11.The Marlins were outscored 13-2 and shut out twice in their series with Atlanta, which completed a three-game sweep with an 8-0 victory Wednesday. Miami's 16 runs are the fewest in baseball and its .217 average is among the worst in the majors."It's snowballing a little bit," manger Mike Redmond said. "We're pressing. They need to relax."Outfielder Juan Pierre, who went 1 for 11 versus the Braves, is finding that difficult to do."Nothing's going right," Pierre said. "Everybody says be relaxed. The only thing that relaxes you as a whole is if you win games."Miami is also in the bottom half of the league in ERA at 4.36."We've got to do our part offensively to take some of the pressure off the pitchers," Redmond said. "We can't ask those guys to go out and throw a shutout every single night."Ricky Nolasco (0-1, 3.97 ERA) will try to slow the Philadelphia lineup Friday although he's been shaky in his last four outings versus the Phillies, going 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA.The right-hander allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 7-3 loss to the Mets on Saturday and didn't get the decision.He'll be opposed by John Lannan, who gave up three runs through seven innings Saturday before Philadelphia scored three times in the bottom of the ninth to beat Kansas City 4-3 in his only start.The left-hander had gone 0-4 with a 5.50 ERA in his previous six starts versus the Marlins before winning 7-4 while pitching for Washington on Aug. 3. He went six innings and gave up three runs.Placido Polanco will face his former team for the first time since signing a one-year, $2.75 million contract with Miami after spending the last three seasons with Philadelphia.