Ryan Howard walked out to his usual spot at first base Thursday afternoon and began to field grounders. Later in the day, before the Phillies' game against the Dodgers, Howard grabbed a bat and went to the indoor cage.
Both actions were ordinary for baseball players in pregame mode. But for Howard, they were two important steps to returning to active duty.
Howard, who suffered a sprained left ankle on August 1, checked off two items on his rehab program, taking live batting practice and fielding groundballs for the first time since the injury.
"It felt pretty good," Howard said. "My ankle felt all right. There's still stiffness and swelling and whatnot. Hopefully in the next couple of days that will subside."
Howard is eligible to return from the disabled list Tuesday. Although he is still in the process of returning to baseball activities, Howard isn't ruling out returning when his 15-day stint expires.
"If the pain is bearable and it goes down enough and we get a little more of the swelling out ... I think I'll be able to go out there and make some things happen," Howard said of the possibility of returning Tuesday. "Obviously I'm not going to rush it. I'm not going to try and come back if it's not ready. I'm not going to force it.
"The worst thing you could do is try to come back before you're ready and then just go back on the DL. I want to make sure it's cool, it's good enough to play. I think the most important thing is trying to get ready for the stretch run. If it takes a little bit of extra time to make sure that it's 100 percent, I think everybody would rather me do that than try to force it just to go straight back on the DL."
PHILLIES 10, DODGERS 9: Jonathan Broxton creates Phillies rallies. In each of the last two postseasons, Broxton has been at the center of postseason highlight films, surrendering a dramatic home run to Matt Stairs in the 2008 NL Championship Series and a walk-off hit to Jimmy Rollins in 2009.
He was back on the mound Thursday, on a day when the Phils erased a 9-2 deficit in the final two innings. Broxton entered in the ninth and never retired a batter. After two walks, a hit batsman and an ugly error, Carlos Ruiz ripped a two-run, walk-off double to left-center to give Broxton his latest Philly nightmare.
- RHP Joe Blanton avoided his seventh loss of the season thanks to the late-inning heroics of his offensive teammates. The Phillies scored eight runs in their last two innings to erase a 9-2 deficit. Blanton helped build that deficit from the get-go. He allowed three runs in the first inning. Blanton has made a habit out of getting into trouble early. In 19 starts this season, Blanton has allowed 18 first-inning runs.
"It was bleeders and groundball singles and choppers through the hole," Blanton said of Thursday's first inning. "There's nothing much you can do about that."
- C Carlos Ruiz ripped a two-run, walk-off double off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton in the bottom of the ninth inning to deliver the Phillies an improbable 10-9 victory. The walk-off hit was the second of the season for Ruiz. He hit a game-ending home run against the Cardinals on May 4. Ruiz is hitting .294 this season. He has 10 hits in his last 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position (.435).
"He's the best clutch hitter we have," teammate Ben Francisco said. "I don't think there's anyone else we'd rather have up there at that point in the game."
- 1B Ross Gload was able to avoid the disabled list Thursday, a day after suffering a groin strain that forced him from the game. Gload on Wednesday stopped between first and second base after hitting a double to lead off the sixth inning. He hobbled safely to second but was immediately replaced by a pinch runner. Gload, however, said he felt better before he reached the dugout, though he did not play Thursday. Gload, who has seen regular time at first base since Ryan Howard went on the disabled list, is hitting .333 with two home runs and seven RBI in his last nine games.
"When I did it, I thought it was bad. ... I definitely felt like, I'd use the word 'pop' because I've never felt that before," Gload said. "But when I started walking off, I was almost relieved. I knew I had to come out at the time, but I didn't think it was season-ending or two-week-ending."
- LF Raul Ibanez's career-high, 18-game hitting streak ended in the Phillies' 10-9 win over the Dodgers on Thursday night. Ibanez was 0-for-5. He was the only starter not to reach base in the last two innings, when the Phils overcame a 9-2 deficit. Ibanez hit .409 (27-for-66) with four home runs and 17 RBI during his hitting streak. His streak was the longest for the Phillies since Chase Utley had a 19-game streak in 2007.
- CF Shane Victorino was activated off the 15-day disabled list prior to Thursday's game against the Dodgers. Victorino had been sidelined since July 28, when he suffered an abdominal strain to his right side. Before returning to the Phillies, he played in back-to-back games at Class AAA Lehigh Valley on a rehab assignment. Although the original plan was to play three games at Lehigh, Victorino was deemed ready after going 3-for-4 with a home run and a triple Wednesday night. "I thought everything went fine," Victorino said. LHP Antonio Bastardo was sent down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to create room for Victorino.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- Consecutive wins the Phillies had at Citizens Bank Park before dropping a 1-0 defeat to the Mets on August 7. The home win streak was the most for the Phillies since they won 16 in a row at Veterans Stadium in 1991, and it tied the White Sox for the longest home win streak in the majors this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm walking - it's a miracle, a miracle!" - Ryan Howard, who suffered a left ankle sprain a week earlier, while walking with a limp from his locker on August 8.