Ryan Howard laced a ball to deep center field to start the second inning, and all of a sudden, everything seemed like it was back to normal for the Phillies.

The ball was flying all over the field, just like it had been for the past six seasons when Howard was averaging 45 ½ home runs per season. Optimism was everywhere. Chase Utley had returned last week, so the Phillies had their projected lineup on the field for the first time all season.

The band was back together, finally.

Then reality set in.

You watched Howard run out of the batter's box, and it became apparent that everything is not back to normal as he lumbered into second, nine months after tearing his Achilles tendon while making the final out in the deciding fifth game of the NLDS last October.

"There's probably going to be a small hitch in there, so get used to it," Howard said. "It might take a little while to get my strength back (in his foot). I might have a little Kirk Gibson in my run."

Howard insisted that it's from getting used to running again, not from pain. Howard never had the chance to prove it Friday. He was stranded at second in the second inning and again with one out in the seventh after he singled.

Then the bullpen imploded as Antonio Bastardo gave up a bases-loaded walk and a grand slam in the eighth, breaking open a scoreless game and sending the Phillies to a 5-0 loss. Each method of scoring would have been Howard's dream scenario – a slow jog around the bases.