WASHINGTON - Ryan Howard continues to be bothered by a sore left knee. For the second straight Sunday, Howard could not start at first base because of his knee.

He did pinch-hit against winning pitcher Stephen Strasburg during Sunday's 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals, hitting into a double play in the eighth inning.

Howard received a cortisone shot last Sunday and did not play for two days. He started the next four games.

After Howard struck out four times in Saturday's 5-3 win, it was thought that manager Charlie Manuel was just giving him a mental day off. That was not the case.

"I was giving him a day off because of his knee," Manuel said. "It's been sore the last couple of days."

When asked afterward if his knee problem is a concern, Howard gave an honest answer.

"It is always a concern," he said. "The knee hurts. It hurts, but you still try to go out and play."

The Phillies play the next two games in Boston, where Howard could be used as the designated hitter. But it also hurts him to bat.

"Obviously with it being my back leg, that is kind of your power leg, to be able to push though," he said of the injury's effect on his hitting. "I don't like making excuses. That has never been my thing."

"I don't try to look at that as a hindrance," he added. "It is what it is, and I still try to play through it the best I can."

Extra bases

Boston's Clay Buchholz (7-0, 1.73 ERA) was scratched from Monday's start against the Phillies because of irritation near his collarbone. Righthander Alfredo Aceves (1-1, 8.20) will start. . . . Phillies first baseman Kevin Frandsen, who was hit on the right hand by a 95-m.p.h. Strasburg fastball, said after the game he was all right. "I am made of steel," he quipped.