Phils Lose After Halladay Gets Pummeled, But at Least Ryan Howard Joins 300-Homer Club

Phils Lose After Halladay Gets Pummeled, But at Least Ryan Howard Joins 300-Homer Club

With the Phillies down 7-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, desperate for a win to stay alive in the NL wild card race, Ryan Howard blasted one over the centerfield fence. A clear home run from the instant of contact, the ball slammed into the ivy-covered brick wall in front of Ashburn Alley. No fans would have their lifelong home run catch wish granted on this one though, which would have been a heck of a story because it was Howard's 300th career homer. (The ball landed in the shrubs under the batter's eye in center.) Watch it here. 
Number 300 may not crack the top 100 in MLB history (Howard's now tied with former Phillie Chuck Klein at 134), but Howard is still only the second player to hit that many in a Phillies uniform, behind Michael Jack. According to Daily News beat man Ryan Lawrence, it's also the second fewest games that anyone has ever needed to reach 300. Lawrence points out that Ralph Kiner did it in 1,087 games played, just under Howard's 1,093. 
When Howard crumbled to the ground out of the batter's box in the final at bat of the 2011 Phillies postseason, the achilles injury he sustained seemed like it might wipe out his 2012 season. Among a slew of other ailments, Howard's prolonged absence is a critical reason the Phillies need other teams to lose if they want to play in October this year. But his increasing power since returning is a reason that hope isn't completely lost just yet (at least for the undaunted optimists), and at the very least, a healthy Howard is something to look forward to next spring. The Big Piece has now homered in four straight games. 
Unfortunately, the Phils couldn't do much more at the plate. The homer was Howard's only hit of the game, and only two of his teammates would join him in getting a hit on the day as Atlanta starter Mike Minor and his bullpen shut them down the rest of the way. 
Roy Halladay was chased from the mound before the second inning was over, the second shortest appearance of his career per Jim Salisbury. Doc served up six runs before departing in the second inning and was charged with a seventh. Salisbury wonders if we've seen Halladay's last appearance of 2012. Laboring and having trouble locating his pitches, it's hard to see a reason why—especially if the wild card is further out of reach by his next turn.  
With the Cardinals beating the Cubs, Saturday saw the Phils slide to four games back... 
Cliff Lee faces Tim Hudson tomorrow afternoon. 

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.