WASHINGTON — Though he struck out four times in four plate appearances on Saturday night, it was a little odd to see cleanup hitter Ryan Howard out of the lineup on Sunday
That’s especially the case since the Phillies were facing righty Stephen Strasburg, a pitcher known for challenging hitters with fastballs.
But according to manager Charlie Manuel, Howard’s ailing knee has been bothering him for the last couple of days, so Kevin Frandsen got the start at first base.
“He had a tough day yesterday,” Manuel said. “But at the same time, he got the day off because his knee is bothering him.”
Howard’s knee first became an issue last week. He received a cortisone shot to help alleviate the inflammation and went on a mini-hot streak, going 8 for 21 with three doubles and three RBIs.
But after the four strikeouts on Saturday night, Howard was limping around the clubhouse. When he was used as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, Howard grounded into a rally-killing double play.
With the two games in Boston this week, the Phillies will be able to use Howard as a DH, if he’s healthy enough.
“There’s a chance he’ll play,” Manuel said. “We’ll see.”
Frandsen gets the hook
With Howard out, Frandsen got his fourth start of the season at first base on Sunday.
It didn’t last long.
After being called out on strikes to end the fourth inning, Frandsen slammed his bat down in disgust. When he turned to look at home-plate umpire Mike Winters, he was getting the heave-ho.
“I didn’t say anything,” Frandsen said, adding that he plays with emotion and didn’t protest the ump’s call.
Frandsen's bat didn’t come close to hitting Winters and seemed like a harmless outburst of anger at striking out. Meanwhile, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper also flipped his bat after striking out to end the third inning and nearly hit the umpire.
Harper remained in the game.
Frandsen is lucky he made it to the fourth inning in the first place. While squaring to bunt during his first at-bat in the second inning, he was unable to get out of the way of a 98-mph fastball thrown by Strasburg. Though he got drilled on the wrist and momentarily writhed in pain, Frandsen remained in the game.
“I’m steel,” Frandsen joked. “They don’t feel good when it happens. When it happens, time’s called and you just hope you’re ready to go.”
Frandsen was hit by a pitch in Saturday night’s game, too, when he pinch-hit during the seventh inning. Actually, in 43 plate appearances, Frandsen has been hit four times.
That’s quite a few bruises for Frandsen, and we’re not counting the one he got from the Tigers’ hard-throwing ace, Justin Verlander, during spring training.