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Phillies’ Howard to Miss 6-8 Weeks

The Philadelphia Phillies learned Monday that they will be without Ryan Howard for 6-8 weeks.

The Philadelphia Phillies learned Monday that they will be without Ryan Howard for 6-8 weeks.

The Philadelphia Phillies will be without starting first baseman Ryan Howard for at least the next six weeks, it was announced on Monday.

The club announced that Howard – who has been noticeably limping of late – underwent a MRI scan on Monday. The scan revealed a torn meniscus in his left knee and the initial prognosis is that he will miss six to eight weeks of action.

Howard was placed on the DL this past Saturday. The club has yet to confirm the date and time the operation to repair the knee will take place.

The news will come as a blow to Charlie Manuel and the Phillies (44-46), who remain in the overall postseason picture, albeit slightly further back.

Howard has played 80 games for the Phillies this season, collecting 11 home runs and 43 RBIs, both good enough for second on the team. Only Domonic Brown (23 HR, 63 RBI) has compiled better numbers for the club this campaign.

Philadelphia has had its fair share of injuries this season. Second baseman Chase Utley and catcher Carlos Ruiz have missed significant time, while starting pitcher Roy Halladay has been missing with a shoulder injury since the beginning of May and isn’t expected back until next year.

20130708_NLEastWith both Howard and Halladay absent, the Phillies have $40 million of salary sat on the DL. Add another $5 million to that total as relief pitcher Mike Adams remains on the 15-day list.

Despite Howard’s absence, the Phillies picked up a series-opening win over the Washington Nationals on Monday night, taking the game 3-2. Charlie Manuel’s side now sits 2 1/2 games back of the Nationals in the NL East and 7 1/2 back of the division-leading Atlanta Braves.

At this time of year, 7 1/2 games is far from insurmountable, but without Howard (and Halladay) the Phillies look to be in a tricky spot.

At this point, securing one of the two Wild Card berths seems out of the question. The trio of NL Central teams battling for the division title (the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds) looks good enough to take one if not both of those spots. Meanwhile, the NL West is turning into a battle ground as the Los Angeles Dodgers continue to surge.

That leaves the Phillies chasing the Nationals (46-43) and Braves (51-38) for the NL East title.

While Atlanta has led the division since the start of the season, the club hasn’t done much of late. Fredi Gonzalez’s side has tread water enough to stay out in front, but the team that started 13-2 doesn’t look unassailable right now. As for the Nationals, with three games still to play this week, the Phillies have the opportunity to jump ahead sooner rather than later.

Consider this too; the Phillies are 3-3 against the Braves this season and 4-3 against the Nationals. In fact, at 22-13 the Phillies have the best record within the division this season. So a well-timed run could put the team in contention for a division title.

Matt Halladay's stint on the DL has hurt the Phillies.

Matt Halladay’s stint on the DL has hurt the Phillies.

Of course, it’s hard to see where this well-timed run will come from. The club was a middle-of-the-road hitting team with Howard in the lineup. With the No. 2 hitter out of the picture, finding those runs could be difficult. Meanwhile, Halladay’s absence continues to hurt the side as it posts a 4.19 team ERA, ranking it 12th in the National League.

With the July 31 trade deadline approaching quickly, the club has the unenviable task of deciding whether this season is done or whether one or two moves could help to really contend.

As per the Philadelphia Daily News, since May 28 the Phillies have taken 2-of-3 from the Boston Red Sox, Washington, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, all teams with a very real chance of making a postseason appearance. That surely means the club is still in contention, right? A 19-19 record and 15 losses to sub .500 teams in that period might suggest otherwise.

Bookmakers certainly feel the Phillies are all but out of it. According to Bovada, the club is currently 18/1 to win the division and 33/1 to win the NL pennant. This latter figure ranks the side 11th of 15.

However, the bookmakers aren’t about to completely give up on the side just yet. The New York Mets – the team that sits one place below Philadelphia in each of those categories – is currently considered 150/1 to win the NL East and 150/1 to win the NL pennant, which is quite the drop off.

This week’s series against the Nationals could go a long way to determining whether or not the Phillies are still true contenders.

Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies odds for 7/9/13 are available now.

After opening as an underdog in yesterday’s game, Philadelphia (-138) opened as the favorite over Washington (+128) on Tuesday’s moneyline.

Part of this change in fortune comes from Monday night’s victory. Another part of it comes from the fact that the Nationals will send Taylor Jordan (0-1, 2.70 ERA) to the mound. It will be just the third time Jordan has appeared in the majors.

Cole Hamels (3-11, 4.38 ETA) will start for the Phillies. Hamels has had a horrendous season but picked up the ‘W’ in a 6-4 win over the Pirates on July 4.

The over/under opened at 8 1/2.

Both Philadelphia (50-39-1) and Washington (44-41-4) have favored the over this season.

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