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Ryan Howard beats ailing ankle, smacks first homer since July 27

Big League Stew

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Make no mistake: One home run isn't going to vaporize all the talk about whether Ryan Howard(notes) returned from his ankle injury too soon.

But Howard's three-run blast against the Los Angeles Dodgers in an 8-4 victory on Tuesday night is certainly a good start heading into a month he has traditionally dominated.

The third-inning shot by the Philadelphia Phillies first baseman was his first since July 27 and it ended his second-longest homerless drought — 13 games — of the season.

Unfortunately, it didn't do much to Howard's post-DL slash line since returning from his 16-game break. In the 10 games and 42 plate appearances since returning, he's hitting a sickly .125/.167/.200 with Tuesday's homer counting as his only extra-base hit.

Howard says he's having the proverbial "good at-bats" and taking the swings he wants to take. Phillies fans, though, are hoping that cliche will manifest itself in Howard turning into the late-season beast that he's built a reputation on.

He has a giant WPA (5.31) over the last three September/October time periods, and ESPN's Mark Simon says there's no one quite like Howard when the calendar flips to the final months:

Since Howard's career began with the Phillies in 2004, he hasn't just been good in September and October. He's dominated.

Howard has played in exactly one season's worth of September/October baseball — 162 games.

In that time he's hitting .314 and reached base nearly 43 percent of the time. He's hit 52 home runs and driven in 141 runs. His OPS is over 1.100. There's no other month in which it clears 1.000.

With the Phillies holding a 1.5-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the wild-card race, Howard will need to shake off that ankle bug and revert to his old self.

Finding a cup that doesn't fall out while running the bases might help too.

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