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Struggling Ryan Howard dropped to 7th in Phillies batting order for opener against Nationals

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WASHINGTON — Struggling Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was dropped from fourth to seventh in Philadelphia's lineup for Thursday night's game against the Washington Nationals, the lowest in the order he's batted in almost 10 years.

"I talked to him this afternoon and just told him, 'Hey, it's creating a lineup, trying to win the baseball game, going with some hot bats and credit guys for swinging the bats well,'" Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.

It's the first time Howard has hit seventh since April 21, 2006, according to STATS.

The 35-year-old Howard is hitting .148 (4 for 27) with an RBI, no walks and 10 strikeouts for 3-6 Philadelphia.

Right fielder Jeff Francouer took the cleanup spot Thursday.

"If (Howard) could get hot, then I'd have some flexibility and choices in the lineup, so that would be the best scenario, to have five or six guys get hot and have him included in that," Sandberg said.

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