PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Ryan Howard is hitting all the homers he can
to keep Philadelphia in the playoff picture, trying to overcome
bullpen breakdowns and late-inning mistakes.
Howard homered in his first three at-bats, raising his major
league-leading total to 52, and the Phillies rallied after wasting
a five-run lead to beat the Atlanta Braves 8-7 Sunday in the opener
of their second straight doubleheader split.
Atlanta kept Howard from going deep in the second game, winning
3-1 in 11 innings after scoring the go-ahead run on catcher Carlos Ruiz's throwing error. The Phillies, who won Saturday's nightcap,
dropped to 1½ games back of San Diego, the NL wild-card leader,
while the Braves fell five games behind the Padres.
"It was a good game, a good day, for me, I would guess,"
Howard said. "I just wanted to keep going out and having good ABs
and have a good swing."
Howard's 50th home run was a solo shot in the second inning, and
he followed with a two-run drive in the third. His third homer was
an opposite-field, solo shot to left in the sixth that made it 6-1.
After going 4-for-4 with four RBI in the opener, he was 2-for-4
with a walk in the second game.
Geoff Geary (7-1), who got the win in the first game, allowed
Scott Thorman's double leading off the 11th in the second game.
Ruiz threw Pete Orr's sacrifice bunt into left field, allowing
pinch-runner Tony Pena to score, and Orr scored on Geary's wild
Pat Burrell's sacrifice fly in the fourth was the only run off
starter Lance Cormier, who gave up three hits in a career-high
seven innings. Philadelphia had two on in the eighth, but
Macay McBride fanned Chase Utley.
"Cormier was outstanding," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
"That's a tough hitting lineup and he gave them nothing."
Howard leads the major leagues with 133 RBI. Each homer, all
off Tim Hudson, was greeted with a standing ovation and chants of
"M-V-P!" as Howard rounded the bases.
"That last homer he hit I thought was his most impressive
one," Hudson said. "It was a four-seamer up and away. It was off
the plate away. This is a great park for him, too. It will
definitely bring confidence to him as hitter."
The reigning NL Rookie of the Year became the 23rd player to hit
50 homers. He broke the previous mark for second-year players, set
when Ralph Kiner's hit 51 for Pittsburgh in 1947.
A fan jumped over the dugout onto the field and bowed at Howard
before his fourth at-bat in the eighth. Howard lined a single
against McBride for his second career four-hit game.
"I thought it was hilarious," Howard said of his trespassing
fan. "I looked over and the guy was down on the ground. The whole
thing was kind of funny."
Howard broke Mike Schmidt's Philadelphia season record when he
hit his 49th against Washington on Thursday night. He also has a
13-game hitting streak and his 133 RBI are the most by a Phillie
"What can you say? It's unreal," Phillies manager Charlie
Manuel said. "It's a credit to him and his hard work."
Albert Pujols of St. Louis homered in his first three at-bats
during a 6-3 win over Pittsburgh. It was the first time two players
homered three times on the same day since Pujols and Cleveland's
Travis Hafner did it on July 20, 2004, according to the Elias
Sports Bureau. It was the first time a pair did it in the first
three plate appearances since Cincinnati's Johnny Bench and
Atlanta's Orlando Cepeda -- a pair of Hall of Famers -- on July 26,
"I'm sure a day like today is going to be one of those days
where I wake up and am like, `Did that really happen?"' Howard
With a 6-3 lead in the ninth, Fabio Castro allowed a three-run,
opposite-field homer to right by Matt Diaz. But Jimmy Rollins and
Shane Victorino hit RBI singles off Bob Wickman (0-1) in the bottom
Jamie Moyer allowed three runs and six hits in 7 1/3 innings in
his home debut for the Phillies. Moyer, a Pennsylvania native, made
the school's hall of fame at nearby Saint Joseph's.
Hudson gave up six runs and six hits in seven innings.
Moyer allowed Edgar Renteria's solo homer in the first but
settled down against a lineup missing third baseman Chipper Jones
and second baseman Marcus Giles. Jones was a late scratch with a
sore oblique muscle on his left side. He did play in the second
game, but Cox said Jones probably won't play in the three-game
series in New York.
Giles returned to Atlanta for medical tests. He missed
Saturday's doubleheader and visited a Philadelphia hospital, where
he said he was told he may have a heart defect.
With the score 1-1 in the third, Rollins hit a go-ahead triple
and scored on Victorino's single. Todd Pratt hit a two-run homer
for the Braves in the eighth.
Gordon, who was on the DL with a strained right shoulder,
was activated Sunday. ... The Phillies put RHP Scott Mathieson on
the 15-day DL with a sprained right elbow. He was injured in his
start Saturday. They also recalled RHP Brian Sanches and RHP
Clay Condrey from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... New York's
Jose Reyes also hit three homers in a game this season in Philadelphia
on Aug. 15. ... Phillies C Mike Lieberthal left the second game
because of back spasms.
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