Howard overcomes flu to hit big homer

Howard overcomes flu to hit big homer

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard's name had been penciled in the starting lineup for 342 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the Major Leagues.

Until Saturday.

The Phillies' first baseman had flu-like symptoms following Friday's 7-2 loss to the Orioles and spent some time at a local hospital, according to a Phillies spokesperson.

Manager Charlie Manuel said that Howard had a temperature of 104 and wasn't available Saturday. Manuel noted that Howard was released from the hospital between 12:30-12:45 a.m., so the streak, which began May 25, 2007, was almost certain to come to an end.

"He was pretty sick," Manuel said.

Yet Howard hit a dramatic three-run, pinch-hit homer off Danys Baez in the seventh to temporarily propel the Phillies ahead of the Orioles, 5-3, before falling, 6-5. It was the fifth pinch-hit homer of Howard's career and extended his Major League-leading games played streak to 343. The last time Howard did not start at first base was June 6, 2008, against the D-backs.

Not writing Howard's name into the lineup was a bit weird.

"Actually, he doesn't like taking days off," Manuel said. "In fact, I don't think I've ever asked him, 'Do you need a blow?'"

Greg Dobbs filled in for Howard at first base while Matt Stairs got the start in left field and Paul Bako at catcher.

"It's not a typo," Stairs quipped.

The last time Stairs started and hit cleanup came July 20, 2008, for the Blue Jays at Tampa Bay.

Manuel said that changing up the lineup can wind up being very positive.

"Competition never hurt nobody," Manuel said.

Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.