Atlanta at Philadelphia

Ernesto forces postponement in Philly; Howard chasing 60

CBS wire reports

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard's chase for 50 homers had to wait a day.

Reaching the slugging milestone is a mere formality for the Phillies first baseman. In only his second season, Howard is on pace to shoot past that total and join the elite 60-homer club.

"That's a ridiculous number," Howard said Friday. "There's only been a few guys in their careers who have achieved something like that. If it were to happen, that's great. I would have never expected it."

Howard had Friday night off when the game between the Phillies and the Atlanta Braves was postponed because of rain from tropical depression Ernesto. The game wasn't immediately rescheduled. The two teams are slated to play a day-night doubleheader Saturday.

Jon Lieber (6-9, 5.09 ERA) and Scott Mathieson (1-4, 7.23) will pitch against Atlanta's Oscar Villarreal (9-1, 4.17) and Kyle Davies (2-3, 6.12) on Saturday.

Howard did get a chance to rest his sore, stiff right elbow a day after he was hit there by Washington reliever Saul Rivera. Howard walked around the clubhouse wearing an icepack fit for a starting pitcher before the game, and said he would have played.

Of course, maybe a homer would have only reached the first 25 rows of the right-field seats instead of a shot to the upper deck. Howard set a franchise record when he hit his 49th home run of the season in the fourth inning of Thursday night's game with Washington. The ball appeared to hit a seat in the second deck and bounce back on to the field.

"It looked like someone lit a match on a firework because it came off his bat so fast," said Phillies reliever Geoff Geary. "It didn't look like it was coming down."

Howard set the Phillies' record held by Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt (1980) and became just the seventh player in Major League history to hit at least 40 homers in his second year.

Howard, last year's NL Rookie of the Year, leads the majors in homers (49) and RBI (128).

Atlanta's Andruw Jones his 51 homers last season and only five players have ever reached 60.

"It's nothing I'm going out thinking about trying to hit a home run every time and say, 'hey, let me get to 60 home runs.' If the dust clears and it's 60, then it's 60," Howard said.

But the milestone was spoiled when the Phillies missed a chance to move into a tie for the NL wild card lead with a disheartening loss to the Nationals. One strike away from the victory in the ninth, Arthur Rhodes instead blew a 4-2 lead, Aaron Fultz failed to hold a 5-4 lead in the 10th, and they lost 6-5.

"That loss sucked. I'll say it," Geary said. "The way we lost the game was just frustrating. But we still have that fight. We still have that hunger as a team."

Instead of a tie, the Phillies were one game behind San Diego and ½ game up on Cincinnati entering Friday night's games. The standings were sure to shuffle with the Reds starting a three-game series at San Diego.

While Howard said he understood everyone was interested in the home run record, he was more concerned about leading the Phillies to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

"You don't want to take away from everything the team is doing," Howard said. "Right now, it's been a fun ride. We're a game out of the wild card. Everyone looks at it the way they want to look at it."

While Howard's homer total is going up, the Phillie Phanatic might want to duck. The Phillies strengthened their bench for their playoff push, acquiring first baseman Randall Simon from the Texas Rangers for cash.

Simon, suspended for three games in 2003 after hitting one of the Milwaukee Brewers' sausage mascots with his bat, last played in the major leagues on Sept. 7, 2004 with Tampa Bay.

"We don't have no hot dog mascots here," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, laughing.

Simon started the season in the Mexican League and was playing for Triple-A Oklahoma. He hit .308 with one home run and 10 RBI in a combined 24 games between Oklahoma and the rookie-level Arizona League Rangers. He's a career .283 hitter with 49 home runs and 235 RBI in 514 games.

Simon is not eligible for the postseason roster.

Also, All-Star closer Tom Gordon (3-4, 3.28 ERA, 27 saves) will make another rehabilitation start for Class A Clearwater on Saturday. Gordon tossed two scoreless innings in a rehab start Friday. Gordon was placed on the 15-day disabled list on August 21 with a strained right shoulder and could be activated Sunday.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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