IN ADDITION TO righting their ship, the Phillies also must avoid taking on more water, a task that became more challenging yesterday when a couple of their stars were sidelined with injuries. Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard will both undergo MRIs today as the Phillies prepare to start a three-game series against the Marlins in Miami.
At least for the moment, Ruiz' injury appears to be more significant. The catcher suffered a right hamstring strain while moving from first to third on a single in the second inning. He was replaced by Erik Kratz before the start of the third.
Howard, meanwhile, has been battling soreness in his left knee, the same leg on which where he had surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles' tendon 1 1/2 years ago. Manager Charlie Manuel said it was unlikely that Howard would start tonight's game, although the first baseman is expected to rejoin the team after undergoing a "precautionary" MRI in Philadelphia.
Ruiz is a candidate for the disabled list. The Phillies will bring catcher Humberto Quintero to Miami, although they have not yet activated him.
The injury ended a nine-game hitting streak for Ruiz, who started the season 2-for-20 but since then is 10-for-31 with a couple of walks (albeit with only one extra-base hit, a double).
Quintero, 33, who has 6 years of major league service, was not in the Lehigh Valley lineup yesterday. In seven games for the Phillies, he was 5-for-20 with two doubles, one walk and six strikeouts. He accepted an assignment to Triple A after the Phillies waived him to make room for Ruiz when he returned from serving a 25-game suspension for a positive test for a banned stimulant. In eight games at Lehigh Valley, Quintero is 7-for-24 with a double, two home runs, four walks and five strikeouts.
Howard did not sound too alarmed in a brief interview after yesterday's 3-2 win over the Reds, but he said that the injury does affect him pushing off at the plate. In 41 games, he is hitting .245 with a .282 on-base percentage and 16 extra-base hits (six homers) while striking out 46 times in 163 plate appearances. His slow start has been a big factor in the Phillies' inability to produce consistent offense, but it is a start that he has endured before.
On May 19, 2008, Howard went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in a 4-0 loss to the Nationals that dropped the Phillies to 24-22. That season, through 46 games, he was hitting .187 with a .290 on base percentage and 15 extra base hits (10 home runs) while striking out 65 times in 193 plate appearances. Compare that with the numbers Howard carried into yesterday, when he was a healthy scratch against a righthander for just the third time since the start of the 2011 season.
Howard finished that 2008 season hitting .275/.357/.595 with 38 home runs in his final 507 plate appearances, and the Phillies went 68-48 in their final 116 games to win the National League East crown.
Calmer waters ahead
After the three-game series in Miami, the Phillies will play three games against Washington and four against Boston, ending a stretch in which they will have played 19 of 22 games against playoff contenders. They then will enjoy a stretch of 13 straight games against teams that entered yesterday in last place in their divisions. Factor in series against the Mets, Padres and Dodgers, and 29 of their 45 games leading up to trade deadline week will come against teams who entered yesterday with worse records than the Phillies' 21-23 mark.
Righthander Tyler Cloyd will start tomorrow's game in Miami. The Phillies will need to make a roster move to accommodate him . . . Ben Revere is 11-for-24 (.458) over his last 12 games after hitting .204 in his first 26 games . . . Domonic Brown's stolen base in the fourth inning was the sixth of his career and the first since July 1, 2011 . . . Jonathan Pettibone became the first Phillies rookie to allow three or fewer earned runs in his first six career starts since Ben Rivera in 1992.