If the Philadelphia Phillies are going to turn their season around, they might have to it without one of their key players for an extended period of time.
Prior to Saturday's 13-4 defeat, Philadelphia scratched Howard from the starting lineup then placed him on the DL because of inflammation in his left knee. Howard, batting .266 with 11 homers and 43 RBIs, hit a solo shot in a 5-4 victory Friday.
"That's a big blow,'' manager Charlie Manuel said. "His presence means something to us. He's still a threat.''
The Phillies (42-46) likely will need Howard healthy if they're to have any chance of making a serious run at the postseason. Howard, bothered by knee issues since May, is expected to have an MRI in a day or two to determine whether he'll need surgery.
"We can't just think about the short term here, we have to think about the long term on Ryan as well," general manager Ruben Amaro told the Phillies' official website. "I think we're going to be pretty conservative with him. If it needs surgery - hopefully it doesn't - if it needs surgery we'll take care of it. If it doesn't, we'll try to rehab him and get him back."
Recently named All-Star Domonic Brown is one Phillie that will be expected to help fill the offensive void. The outfielder has batted .311 in his last 15 games and has a .316 average against the NL East-leading Braves (50-37) this season.
The Phillies will try to regroup behind Jonathan Pettibone (4-3, 3.99 ERA), who is 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in his last three starts. He gave up a home run and two other hits while matching a career high with six strikeouts in 5 2-3 innings of a 3-1 win at Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
This will be the right-hander's first appearance versus Atlanta, which totaled 10 runs and 26 hits while losing its previous three contests before setting season highs for runs and hits (19) on Saturday.
"A lot of guys swung the bats well,'' manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We had good hitting up and down the lineup.''
Brian McCann had four hits and Jason Heyward hit a three-run homer. McCann has gone 16 for 28 in his last seven games, while two of Heyward's four hits in 19 at-bats against the Phillies this season have been home runs.
Atlanta's Kris Medlen (6-7, 3.11) has gone 5-1 with a 2.50 ERA in his past six starts. He's allowed three runs in each of his last three outings, most recently Tuesday when he overcame nine hits in six innings of an 11-3 victory over Miami.
The right-hander has a 3.94 ERA in three starts versus Philadelphia, but dropped to 1-1 against the Phillies after yielding two runs, six hits and four walks in five innings of a 2-0 loss April 4.
Philadelphia catcher Carlos Ruiz has one hit in his last 11 at-bats against the Braves, but is 4 for 6 with a double versus Medlen.