Howard & Pence Will Return This Weekend

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We've already asked you once this week to not panic about the Phillies because they are losing games that matter to them about as much as your fantasy football team.

We'd ask you again to refrain from refilling your Xanax prescription, but chances are that if you're the panicky type it is probably too late to pull you off the ledge. The Phillies have lost six straight games and naturally that is more significant than the 150 games that came before. Who cares that there have been plenty of World Series champs that limped to the finish line -- the 2000 Yankees lost 15 of their final 18 -- when you can finally unleasy your inner Chicken Little after months of putting on the brave facade of someone who believes what they see on the baseball diamond.

Those of you who haven't already abandoned ship would probably still like to see the Phillies win a few games. That's nothing to apologize about. We're conditioned to want to see our favorite teams win baseball games, even when those games don't have bearing on anything other than the arbitration cases of pitchers from other teams.

So it is good news that the Phillies will be welcoming Ryan Howard back to the lineup on Friday night. Howard took batting practice for the first time since Monday's injection in his ailing ankle and is set to play for the first time since last Saturday. That should give him ample time to get his swing into form and it gives the Phillies some cushion should Howard find that his ankle needs a bit more rest before the playoffs.

Howard will likely be joined in the lineup by Hunter Pence later in the weekend, which means that the Phillies training room will be vacant. Pence's knee issue isn't quite the same concern as Howard's ankle, Howard has a history with ankle problems, but it is still nice to get him back with the team with time to spare before the start of the postseason.

None of this will quiet the concerns of those of you that have already transitioned into fixing the team for next year, but such people are beyond hope anyway. The rest of us will just be thankful that the Phils have everyone back in the lineup in time for the first round.

And then we'll resume worrying about the Cardinals passing the Braves, because no one should be eager to see Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols in a short series.

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