Charlie Manuel had a pretty good piece of strategy for his struggling slugger Ryan Howard as he looks to shake out of an early slump and beat that dreaded infield shift.

“Yeah, I see how he can beat that, by hitting the ball in the air,” Manuel said prior to Monday’s 7-2 loss to the Mets at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay). “Those balls that he’s hitting to second base and sometimes rolling over on the ground, those balls are not inside. Those balls are kind of away. Really. If you go look when he’s hitting the ball and getting the ball in the air, that’s how he can beat that. I’ve seen him hit high line drives right by guys’ heads and stuff, too.”

In Monday’s game, Howard was able to hit a couple of balls into the air and one of them was enough to drive in the Phillies’ first run of the game.

But in going 0 for 3 with two more strikeouts to drive his season batting average down to .148 (4 for 27) with 10 whiffs and zero extra-base hits, Howard’s slow start is exacerbated by the rough showing from the team’s pitching staff.

It’s bad enough when Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels are struggling (see story). But throw the cleanup hitter into it and the losses seem all the more soul-crushing.

According to Manuel, Howard could be feeling some pressure to produce in order to get the team going.

“He can definitely be more patient at the plate,” Manuel said. “I think Ryan feels like when someone’s in scoring position that he has to knock him in. The only thing Ryan has to do is be relaxed and get good balls to hit. When he swings at strikes, he becomes a much better hitter. If he does that, you’ll see him hit better.”