When Freddi Gonzalez was asked about the Phillies' chances Friday night, the Braves manager said the Phillies have yet to get hot.
"They haven't had one of their big streaks yet this year," Gonzalez said. "Ryan Howard has yet to get going yet either."
The first part might be happening. The Phillies have won four of their last six games after beating the Braves, 7-3, Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
But the latter may never occur in 2013.
Howard was placed on the 15-day DL. He'll get an MRI on his ailing left knee Monday in Philadelphia. The team hasn't ruled out surgery.
When informed of Howard's situation, Gonzalez was blunt.
"That really hurts the Phillies if this is the end of the year for him," Gonzalez said. "He's a guy that's been incredibly productive."
When Gonzalez was told that many of the Phillies' faithful have soured on Howard, he laughed.
"I guess they don't know baseball," Gonzalez said. "Howard is a guy that can change a game. He's a difference-maker."
The first half of the 2012 season backs that up. When Howard was out rehabbing his Achilles tendon injury from April through July, the Phillies received next to little production out of the first-base slot. When Howard returned, the historic run producer drove in 56 runs in just 71 games.
"You can't replace what he provides," an NL scout said. "Few people can do what he's capable of doing. Without him, the Phillies would have been hard pressed to have as much success as they did during their run."
Darin Ruf has been called up and started at first base Sunday against the Braves. Ruf went 1-for-2 with a double and two runs scored.
"You just don't replace Ryan Howard," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "I don't know anyone who has done the things he's done over the years. He was always an RBI machine. It's going to be tough for them without him."