Phillies Look to Move Forward With Ryan Howard Out of the Lineup

Howard Will Miss 6-8 Weeks Because of a Torn Meniscus in His Left Knee

By Chris Murray

Ryan Howard will be having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Photo by Webster Riddick

Ryan Howard will be having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Photo by Webster Riddick

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If  Phillies fans can find any silver lining to the news that slugging first baseman Ryan Howard will be getting surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his left knee is that he and possibly Roy Halladay may  be available by sometime around  late August or September for the Phillies to make a late run for a division title or a playoff berth.

Ah, but that’s the rub. Will the Phillies be in the pennant race by the time Howard or Halladay are healthy enough to return to the Phillies lineup? Will Howard or Halladay be 100 percent and back their old selves even if they are in contention?  If the Phils aren’t in the race,  Howard and Halladay should probably just shut it down until next year.

Considering how they struggled last season when Howard was out of the lineup, getting back into the pennant chase is going to be a tall order for the Phillies. Even with him struggling with a sore knee, Howard still drove in 43 runs and hit 11 home runs. He had one 10-game stretch back in June where he batted .400. In his last game on Friday, July 5 against the Atlanta Braves, he went 1-for-4 with a tape measure home run. He will be out for six to eight weeks.

“That’s a big blow,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “It’s different with him not in there. His presence means something to us. He’s still a threat he’s got (43) RBI. We need Ryan in our lineup. At the same time, we’ve got to keep playing. We’ve got guys that can definitely perform better and help us win some games.

With a healthy mix of veterans and young players in the lineup, the Phillies certainly have the tools to make a go of it without the “Big Piece” in the lineup. One thing that has kept the Phils within reasonable striking distance of the Braves has been the sudden success of All-Star leftfielder Domonic Brown, who has had a whale of a first half of the season.

Coming into Monday’s game against the Nationals, Brown was batting .281 with 23 home runs and 62 runs batted in. He had an incredible month of May in which he hit .303 with home runs, 25 runs batted in, four doubles and a triple. He was named the National League Player of the Month after being named National League Player of the Week twice.

“He’s hit a lot of balls harder and he’s been consistent,” Manuel said. “He’s been healthy and he’s developed into a heck of a player.”

Centerfielder Ben Rivera has also been swinging a hot bat lately. He is hitting .337 (68-for-202) with nine doubles, two triples,  15 stolen bases, 12 runs batted  and 12 walks since May 1. In Monday’s 3-2 win over Washington, Rivera was 3-for-5 including a double with two runs scored and a stolen base. He moved his batting average up to .300 for the first time this season after hitting .200 in April.

With the win over the Nationals, the Phillies have won three of their four games on a homestand that the team is saying is the more important of the year in determining the course of the season.

But where the Phillies have struggled this season is that they have been inconsistent. One night they will hit the ball well or good get a good outing from a starting pitcher only to have the bullpen blow a lead or let deficit grow so large that the game is out of reach. There have been nights where the offense has been absent or the starting pitching is missing.

In early June, the Phillies had a five-game winning streak that pushed them over .500 for the first time this season only to go on a five-game losing streak and fall back under .500 again.

In Monday’s 3-2 win over the Nationals, lefthander John Lannan went eight innings and allowed just four hit with four strikeouts. Closer Jonathan Papelbon got the save but gave up two runs on two hits in the process. It came perilously close to being a blown save.

With Howard out of the lineup, Brown said he expects his teammates to do their part and contribute to fill the void of Howard’s absence in the Phillies lineup.

“We’re looking for guys to step, whoever that might be,” Brown said. “Ben Revere had another great night. John Lannan pitched his butt off we just have to keep doing the little things, especially with Howard out of the lineup.”

Without their best slugger in the lineup, the Phillies will get a good look at Darin Ruf, who was recently called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. So far, he is batting .429 (3-for-7) in his first two games with the big league club. Manuel said there will be a lot of young players that will get a chance to play.

“I think it’s give us chance to put some guys out there and to see them,” Manuel said. “They’re going to get a chance like Ruf and those guys. As far as our line up goes, we’re going to get to see if different. We just got to keep playing like I say all the time. We gotta stay with it, grind it out. “

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