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Gut punch: Ryan Howard injures Achilles on last play of seasonIt looks like Ryan Howard(notes) and the Philadelphia Phillies are embarking on his five-year, $125 million contract extension in the worst way imaginable.

Not only did the first baseman make the final out in the loss that booted the favored Phillies from the postseason on Friday, but he hurt himself badly while doing it. After grounding to second with two outs in the ninth, Howard fell to the ground as he left the batter's box. He was tended to by trainers as the St. Louis Cardinals celebrated the 1-0 triumph in NLDS Game 5 that lifted them into the next round.

Initial reports are saying that Howard hurt his left Achilles tendon and will undergo a MRI to survey the full extent of the damage. Howard left Citizens Bank Park on crutches. If it is fully torn, he could miss the entire 2012 season.

"It felt like my bat came around and hit the back of my Achilles," Howard told reporters after the game. "I tried to run and felt a pop and it felt like the whole thing was on fire. I tried to run, but felt like I was literally on a flat tire. I tried to get up, but I couldn't go."

This obviously doesn't look or sound good and it comes right as Phillies fans are suffering the disappointment of an early first-round exit. Howard started the series with a bang, hitting a big three-run homer in an 11-6 victory in Game 1. But he went 1-for-16 over the final four games, a mark that included an o-for-4 performance on Friday night.

Considering that it begins in his age 32 year, Howard's extension received a lot of criticism when it was signed in April 2010. He's done nothing to prove the doubters wrong either, as he has posted the lowest two OPS figures of his career the last two seasons.

But while decreased production might have been expected from an aging and big first baseman, the possibility of his complete absence for a whole year was not. The Phillies are already facing a lot of questions with several key players headed toward free agency (Jimmy Rollins(notes), Ryan Madson(notes), Raul Ibanez(notes)) and the future of others like Roy Oswalt(notes) remaining uncertain. Finding a replacement for a $25 million a year player is the last thing the Phillies want to deal with right now.

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