A continuing fight against an unidentified illness kept Ryan Howard out of the lineup for a second straight day. Unlike Saturday night, when his dramatic three-run, pinch-hit home run gave the Phillies a two-run lead in the seventh inning, the star first baseman did not even show up at Citizens Bank Park after going to the emergency room for a second time early yesterday morning with flulike symptoms.

The illness, which the Phillies say included a 104-degree fever, ended Howard's major league-leading streak of 343 consecutive games played. But that paled in comparison to the uncertainty surrounding Howard's health - an issue that manager Charlie Manuel admitted yesterday could prevent him from flying with the team tonight for the start of a nine-game road trip that begins with Tampa Bay, followed by Toronto and Atlanta.

Howard checked into Mercy Suburban Hospital in Norristown yesterday morning, where doctors performed a CT scan, Phillies athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said.

"There was some concern about a sinus infection," Sheridan said in a statement.

Howard was given antibiotics and discharged from the hospital yesterday, Sheridan said. He will visit team doctor Marc Harwood this morning and be re-evaluated.

Sheridan declined to answer questions after giving the statement, saying he had no further details.

"I would say there is no assurance [he'll be on the team flight tonight]," Manuel said.

With Howard absent from the lineup, lefthanded slugger Matt Stairs hit cleanup for the second straight game, going 1-for-4 in the Phillies' 2-1 loss to the Orioles.

Manuel had not spoken to Howard yesterday. Neither had centerfielder Shane Victorino, a good friend of Howard's.

"I'm definitely going to send him a text message," Victorino said. "I didn't even know he went back in [the hospital] . . . Yeah, it's a concern. Especially with 104 [fever]. It can't be normal, right?"

Lidge update

Closer Brad Lidge said he was happy with the way he pitched in his first rehab appearance since going on the disabled list with right knee inflammation on June 7. But he will likely not pitch again until tomorrow, leaving his status for the Phillies' three-game series at Tampa Bay in doubt. Lidge threw 15 pitches for Double A Reading on Saturday night, allowing one hit with two strikeouts and no walks in one inning.

"I felt really good [Saturday]," said Lidge, who added that his velocity reached 93 mph and should tick higher once major league adrenaline kicks in. "I felt like I could push off with my back leg. I never thought about what I was doing. I just did it. That's big."

Lidge will pitch for Class A Clearwater tomorrow, when he is also eligible to come off the DL. The team may also decide to pitch him in a rehab outing on Thursday before activating him.

Phillers

The Phillies are off today but will host the annual "Phillies Phestival" at Citizens Bank Park. The autograph/auction event begins at 5 p.m. and proceeds benefit ALS research . . . The Phillies' six straight losses are a season-high and their longest streak since June 17-24. The last time they lost six straight at home was May 31-June 17, 2006 . . . Lefthander Cole Hamels struck out a season-high 10 batters, his 11th career double-digit strikeout game . . . Shane Victorino extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He is hitting .395 in that stretch. *