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Howard too ill to play; streak ends at 343

Ryan Howard's dramatic pinch-hit home run against the Orioles on Saturday night gave the Phillies a temporary boost, but it did nothing for his ailing condition.

Ryan Howard's dramatic pinch-hit home run against the Orioles on Saturday night gave the Phillies a temporary boost, but it did nothing for his ailing condition.

The Phils' slugger was too ill to make it to yesterday's game at Citizens Bank Park, ending his streak of games at 343, which was the longest in the majors.

For the second time in two days, Howard was briefly hospitalized. This time, however, he was even too sick to be available off the bench.

The club's trainer, Scott Sheridan, said after yesterday's 2-1 loss to Baltimore that Howard had gone to the emergency room at Mercy Suburban Hospital in Norristown at about 6 a.m.

Sheridan said a CT scan was taken to try to determine why Howard has been running a fever. He raised the possibility of a sinus infection and said Howard was being treated with antibiotics but had few other details. According to Sheridan, Howard was scheduled to see the club physician, Marc Harwood, today.

Sheridan said he received a text message from Howard telling him he was back in the hospital. A club spokesman said only that Howard's virus "had spiked."

Howard had a 103.9 temperature Saturday night, when he hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning off Danys Baez that gave the Phils a 5-3 lead. They eventually lost, 6-5.

"He got sick again after the game was over and before we left the locker room," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's running a temperature. It comes and goes, and he starts shivering and stuff."

It's not certain that Howard will be with the Phils tonight when they depart for Tampa, Fla., to begin a nine-game road trip.

Closer is closer

The day after he pitches is the most revealing time for Brad Lidge to evaluate his right knee problem, and Lidge's demeanor yesterday suggested the Phillies' closer was coming along as well as he had hoped.

It appears likely that Lidge will come off the 15-day disabled list this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

Lidge threw 15 pitches in a rehab assignment for double-A Reading on Saturday and said he was pain-free yesterday. He will travel with the team to Tampa tonight and pitch for single-A Clearwater tomorrow in what will be his fourth session since he went on the DL June 9.

"There's a chance I could come off [the DL] after Tuesday," Lidge said. "But there's a chance they'd want me to go Tuesday and Thursday [at Clearwater]. So it may be Wednesday, and it may be Friday."

Lidge's season has been hampered by inflammation in his right knee, which had affected the way he drove off the mound.

"The ball felt good coming out of my hand, but even more than that was that, I was delivering the ball and driving right toward the target," he said. "I felt like I pushed off my back leg and I never thought about it, so that's good."

Extra bases

With 10 strikeouts, Cole Hamels had his 11th double-digit strikeout game and first this season. . . . The Phillies Phestival, an annual autograph and auction party designed to raise money for the fight against ALS, will take place tonight at Citizens Bank Park. . . . The Father's Day crowd of 45,256 was the 28th sellout in 35 home games.