NEW YORK - If Domonic Brown's star rises as the Phillies anticipate, Memorial Day weekend may be remembered as its launching.

Brown's vicious pinch-hit line drive single off the short section of the right-field wall Sunday at Citi Field made him 5 for 7 in the three-game series against the Mets. Overall, Brown has seven hits in his last 11 at bats, which boosted his average to .320.

The club's top young prospect said it's all a matter of getting comfortable and properly employing the lessons he learned from last season's call-up from the minors.

"That was a big key for me," Brown said of last season's experience. "Now I know what to expect. I really didn't understand that last year, coming off the bench. This year, I know exactly when to get ready. I've got my own routine now, so it's getting comfortable. It's just a matter of getting games played under my belt. I feel like I'm swinging the bat well and I'm getting good pitches to hit."

With the Phillies scheduled to face a righthander (Livan Hernandez) Monday at Washington, it's likely Brown will start in right field.

"He's been hitting some balls hard," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's looking better. He's looking good. He's scorching some balls."

Howard gets a break

Ryan Howard, who had played in all 52 games, was given his first break of the season as Manuel rested three core players Sunday. Howard was the only Phillie who had played in every game.

Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz were also given the day off.

"We've got a good bench today," Manuel said with a laugh before a 9-5 loss to the Mets at Citi Field.

Manuel cited Wednesday's 19-inning game and Monday's day game at Washington as reasons for resting his most productive player. Lefthander Jonathon Niese started Sunday for the Mets, which likely also factored into Manuel's decision. Howard is hitting .197 against lefties with a .296 slugging percentage as opposed to .276 and .598 against righthanders. Howard has struck out 25 times in 71 at-bats against lefties.

"I just wanted to give him a blow," Manuel said. "He played that long game the other night and we're getting ready to play a day game [Monday], and with Niese."

By the way, Howard has yet to commit an error this season.

The Phillies are closely monitoring Utley because of his right knee condition. He had started in five of six games since coming off the DL last Monday. Utley had his first two-hit game Saturday and scored the winning run. He was in the on-deck circle when John Mayberry Jr. struck out to end the game.

Go figure

Raul Ibanez stranded six runners in his first at-bats, then hit a homer to lead off the eighth inning. He is batting .337 (32 for 95) since ending an 0-for-35 slump. Manuel said Ibanez asked to keep him in the lineup Sunday rather than give him a rest.

"He said he wanted to play because he's feeling really good," Manuel said.

"I'm just trying to see it and hit it and not try to do too much," Ibanez said. "Just trying to keep it simple."

Extra bases

Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock said the report on Shane Victorino after the center fielder's first minor-league rehab game Saturday at Lakewood was positive. "He had three at-bats. He hit a single and he was running hard and everything went well," he said. Victorino was scheduled to play seven innings at Lakewood Sunday night. He'll be off Monday, then move on to double-A Reading for games Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Victorino, who is recovering from a strained right hamstring, is eligible to come off the disabled list Friday. . . . Jimmy Rollins had his 44th multi-stolen-base game and first of the season. . . . Mets shortstop Jose Reyes had four hits, including two triples, to raise his average to .335.

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.