Despite losing its All-Star first baseman to a sprained ankle in the first inning, Philadelphia avoided a sweep at the hands of the last-place Washington Nationals by winning 6-4 in 11 innings Sunday.
It was a painful few minutes for Howard. Washington starter John Lannan hit him on the right elbow with a pitch before Ben Francisco singled to drive in the Phillies' first run. Howard had to scramble back to second base to avoid being tagged out on a relay throw. He hit the bag and his ankle rolled.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and a trainer had to help Howard off the field. The slugger said he hoped to avoid the disabled list.
"It's just swollen. It's tight, sore. Other than that, it's not too, too bad," Howard said.
He wasn't savoring his initial sprain, though.
"It was my first time. I wouldn't recommend it for anybody," Howard deadpanned.
The Phillies came into Washington with an eight-game winning streak and dropped the first two games of the series, losing Saturday night when Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer off beleaguered closer Brad Lidge.
A day later, Lidge, who led the majors with 11 blown saves last season and has four in 15 chances this year, quickly polished off the Nationals in the 11th.
"I really wanted the ballgame today," Lidge said. "Less than 24 hours ago, I get frustrated and then I get another chance."
Placido Polanco and Jayson Werth each drove in a run in the 11th. Wilson Valdez led off the inning with a bunt single against Collin Balester (0-1) and was sacrificed to second by pinch-hitter Roy Oswalt, the ace pitcher acquired Thursday in a trade with Houston.
Valdez went to third on a fly ball by Jimmy Rollins and scored on Polanco's third hit, a single to center. Werth followed with an RBI double.
Jose Contreras (6-3) pitched a scoreless 10th inning for the win.
Cole Hamels tied a season high with 10 strikeouts, but left with the score tied 4-all and watched as the battered and bruised Phillies won with small ball.
"This is not the type of season where everybody is going to shine," Hamels said. "This is the type of season where guys are going to have to gut it out."
Not only did Howard sprain his ankle, but left fielder Raul Ibanez missed the game with a sore left wrist. Two other mainstays from the two-time NL champs, Chase Utley (sprained right thumb) and Shane Victorino (abdominal strain), are on the disabled list.
Philadelphia took a 2-0 lead in the first against John Lannan. With two outs, Werth doubled and Howard was hit by a pitch. Francisco singled and, after Werth scored, Howard injured his ankle and was replaced by Cody Ransom, who scored on Domonic Brown's single.
Howard, in an 0-for-14 slump, sat out his first game of the season on Saturday night.
Lannan, who is 0-7 against the Phillies, was recalled from Double-A Harrisburg to start in place of injured rookie Steven Strasburg. The left-hander allowed two runs and seven hits in five innings. He was 2-5 before being sent down on June 21.
Washington tied the score at 2 in the fourth. Hamels hit Roger Bernadina with a pitch to start the inning and Ian Desmond doubled Bernadina to third. With one out, Zimmerman doubled to right to drive in two runs.
Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer off Hamels in the sixth to give the Nationals a 4-2 lead. Before the home run, Dunn was 1 for 17 against Hamels.
Hamels has won just once in his last nine starts. He allowed four runs and six hits in seven innings and tied his season high with 10 strikeouts. He did not walk a batter.
In the seventh, Philadelphia tied the score on an RBI double by Polanco and an infield out by Francisco.
On the just-concluded homestand, Washington won four of six games against the top two teams in the NL East, the Braves and Phillies.
"A lot of really good things happened and we've got to realize we're not that far away in terms of competing with these clubs," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said.
- After the game, Washington optioned LHP Atahualpa Severino to Triple-A Syracuse. He was recalled on Friday, but did not appear in a game. ... Nationals RHP Tyler Walker had surgery on his right shoulder Friday. He will miss the rest of the season.
- Desmond made two errors at shortstop. He's made a major league-leading 26.
- Washington RHP Livan Hernandez also was used as a pinch-hitter.
- Philadelphia hasn't been swept against the Nationals franchise since dropping four straight games in Montreal from Aug. 25-28, 2003.