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More bad news: Howard might have knee injury

WASHINGTON - Ryan Howard, the face of the Phillies, pulled up lame, possibly with a left knee injury. A shiver went through the Phillies' organization.

WASHINGTON - Ryan Howard, the face of the Phillies, pulled up lame, possibly with a left knee injury. A shiver went through the Phillies' organization.

The Phillies lost to Washington last night, 5-4, in 13 innings. The loss wasn't what left Phillies manager Charlie Manuel ashen-faced or Howard tight-lipped.

Howard, the National League MVP, could be out for a while.

Chris Snelling singled and Michael Restovich doubled to start the 13th off reliever Francisco Rosario. With first base open and no outs, the Phillies let Rosario pitch to switch-hitter Felipe Lopez, who flied out to semi-deep leftfield; Rosario, they reasoned, was too wild to be trusted with the bases loaded and no outs.

Michael Bourn's throw wasn't in time to get Snelling.

The Phillies, officially the worst team in baseball at 3-10, have matched the start of the last-place Phillies of 1997, a team that won only 68 games.

The problem was the same as it has been: They went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position one night after going 0-for-13. They are hitting .191 in that situation.

More important, Howard got hurt. With one out in the 10th and runners at first and second, he was beating out a doubleplay groundball to second. Chase Utley broke up the relay, and Howard was safe, but he injured his left leg sprinting to first.

Originally thought to be a left thigh strain, further examination revealed that Howard had suffered an injury around his left knee. He underwent X-rays last night at RFK Stadium, and was scheduled to undergo an MRI this morning.

He is almost certain to not play today against the Nationals. The Phillies, who carry only five bench players, might have to make a roster move to bolster their position players after they get the MRI results.

Howard is hitting only .213, and he had a poor spring, but the Phillies' lineup was built around his power.

"Yeah, I'm worried," said Manuel.

Howard declined to comment.

The Phils' lineup without Howard today could put Chase Utley at first base and Abraham Nunez at second. Pat Burrell likely would move from fifth to fourth in the lineup.

It could look like that for a while.

Assistant trainer Mark Andersen scooted out to check on Howard. So did Manuel, who was out of position players. Manuel said he would have replaced Howard at that point if he'd had any more position players, but he had spent his bench trying to win it in the ninth. Howard flexed his left leg, bent over, flexed some more, and remained in the game.

He even made a play on a ground ball in the 11th, though he was still hobbled. He grounded into a doubleplay to end the 12th.

After Nationals starter Jason Bergmann retired 13 straight Phillies, Pat Burrell sparked two Phillies' rallies with leadoff singles. He was aboard in the seventh with Aaron Rowand, whose double preceded Greg Dobbs' two-run single, making it 4-3.

Burrell got a hit off closer Chad Cordero in the ninth, too. Michael Bourn ran for him, and, a single and a sacrifice later, he scored on a groundout, giving Cordero his first blown save of the season.

"We had a chance in the first, but I wasn't able to keep anything going," said Burrell, who stranded two in that frame with a strikeout. "Cordero's one of the best closers around. For us to come out and get a couple of hits off him, that was good. I think we proved to ourselves we're capable of coming back on people. Maybe that's the first step."

But the hitting wasn't nearly good enough. As usual.

The first four hitters - Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Utley and Howard - went 2-for-21. They were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Rollins was 0-for-6 total, 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, including a groundout that ended the 11th. That came after Cole Hamels, pinch-hitting because the bench was empty, walked.

Phillies starter Adam Eaton gave up four runs in six innings.

Geoff Geary saved Matt Smith a second straight night of horrors. Smith, tagged for three runs Tuesday, gave up a single to Brian Schneider to start the seventh. Smith then threw to no one at first base - Howard did not cover his pickoff attempt - then threw a wild pitch before walking Snelling. Geary issued another walk but got a fly ball and a doubleplay to keep the Phillies within 4-3.

Notably, former No. 1 starter Brett Myers made his first relief appearance of the season. He pitched a scoreless eighth in front of two scoreless innings apiece from Antonio Alfonseca and Ryan Madson.

"Piece of cake," Myers said. "Felt real good."

Not as good as Wes Helms felt when he crushed a drive to centerfield with one out in the 13th. The chill air weighted the drive down and Austin Kearns caught it at the wall.

"I thought that was a no-doubter," Helms said.

Bourn, who replaced Burrell in leftfield, saved the game twice in the 10th. A strong throw kept Ronnie Belliard from tagging and moving to third on a deep fly ball. Bourn ended the inning running down a ball in left-center that required all of his formidable speed.

But he couldn't make the last play.

"I was still going back on it a little bit," Bourn said. "I didn't get it out of the glove into my hand clean."

The loss set up the Phillies for their worst start since 1982, when they began 3-11. But, again, Howard pulled up lame. That, for the Phillies, might be scarier than 3-10 and last place. *