Ryan Howard takes grounders, hits in indoor cage

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Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has been on the disabled list since August 2, a day after he suffered a badly sprained left ankle while running the bases.  So far progress has been slow, but he did take a major step Thursday.

According to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Howard took ground balls at first base and even took some hacks in an indoor batting cage on Thursday afternoon at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.  He still has some swelling in the ankle and isn’t fully free of discomfort, but that should come soon.

“He’s doing real well,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after watching Thursday’s workout. “He’s coming along really good. It’s just a matter of time.”

Howard is still targeting August 17 as a possible return date, but that seems unlikely at the moment, especially if the Phillies ask him to head out on a minor league rehab assignment.  The 30-year-old was batting .292 with an .884 OPS, 23 home runs and 81 RBI in 101 games before the injury.

Brandon Crawford homers off brother-in-law Gerrit Cole

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You can’t pick your family and no one knows that better than Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. His sister Amy married Astros starter Gerrit Cole in November 2016, so the two players are brothers-in-law.

The two players have matched up against each other 18 times in the past, as Cole spent his first five seasons in the National League with the Pirates. Cole often won that battle, holding Crawford to four hits — all singles — in 18 plate appearances.

Crawford finally got the better of Cole on Tuesday night, hitting a line drive into the appropriately-named Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park for a two-run home run, cutting the Astros’ lead to 5-2.