Sporting a baby blue Lakewood jersey top and a pair of Phillies-red cleats brighter than the maroon of his BlueClaw teammates, Ryan Howard came up to the plate with the chance to produce a walkoff hit in his first official minor-league rehab game Thursday night.

Lakewood was down two runs with the bases loaded and one out, and Howard had worked a 3-1 count. He took a mighty hack that produced the sound Phillies fans have heard hundreds of times since 2004 and the FirstEnergy Park crowd of 8,000 erupted.

But it didn't have the distance. What looked like a potential walkoff grand slam was instead a deep sacrifice fly to left-center. Whatever. It got the job done, and that's all Howard wanted with hot-hitting first baseman Chris Duffy on deck. Duffy, who hit a towering homer in his previous at-bat, promptly won the game with a two-run single. Lakewood, once down 6-0, came all the way back to win 7-6. Howard and Duffy drove in all seven runs.

"My focus was to get one run home and let 'Big Duff' take care of the rest," Howard said. "I told him before he even went up there, I said, 'Hey, be ready to win this game, man.' I just went up there and did my thing, and he came through."

Howard, who will play first base on Friday, sure did his thing in the first competitive game he's played since last October. He went 2-for-4 with three RBIs as Lakewood's designated hitter, and on several occasions was forced to go full-speed on the basepaths.