Howard and the Phillies seek a season-high sixth straight victory Thursday when they complete a three-game series against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.
Howard capped a wild game with a two-run homer in the 14th inning Wednesday night, lifting the Phillies to a 7-5 win. The home run was Howard’s 28th of the season and his second career walk-off homer.
“I went up there trying to hit something in the gap and I hit it out of the ballpark,” Howard said.
The reigning NL MVP is batting .313 with 22 homers and 60 RBIs since coming off the disabled list May 25. Over his last eight games, he’s hitting .464 (13-for-28) with six home runs and 15 RBIs.
“I’m just trying to be consistent, trying not to swing at bad pitches,” Howard said.
The Phillies (52-48) appeared on their way to a much easier victory with a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, but Antonio Alfonseca gave up a walk and two hits, making it a one-run game. Pinch-hitter Jesus Flores’ two-run double off rookie Mike Zagurski then staked Washington to a 5-4 lead.
Some shoddy defense by the Nationals with two outs, though, allowed the Phillies tie it in the bottom of the inning.
Left fielder Ryan Church and center fielder Ryan Langerhans converged on Rollins’ liner to left-center, but the ball bounced off Church’s glove as Rollins raced to third. Church’s relay throw skipped away from shortstop Felipe Lopez, allowing the speedy Rollins to slide headfirst into home with the tying run.
“We couldn’t catch a fly ball, couldn’t hit the relay man and it cost us,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said.
Manager Charlie Manuel said he would be comfortable throwing Myers back into the closer’s role immediately. Myers, sidelined since late May with a strained right shoulder, could return this weekend.
“I think when Brett is healed, he’s healed,” Manuel told the Phillies’ official Web site. “I think he’s the one I can turn loose.”
Philadelphia, looking to move a season-high five games over .500, is five games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets.
Adam Eaton (9-6, 5.84 ERA) will try to join Cole Hamels as the second Phillies pitcher with double-digit wins. The right-hander rebounded from one of his worst starts of the season with a much better performance Friday in a 7-3 victory at San Diego. He allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings, walking three and striking out six.
Eaton was reached for six runs and 10 hits in just four innings of a 10-2 loss to St. Louis on July 15 at Citizens Bank Park. He is 3-4 with a 6.33 ERA in 10 home starts this season, giving up five runs or more five times.
He allowed four runs in six innings against the Nationals on April 18 in Washington’s 5-4, 13-inning win. Eaton is 0-0 with a 4.56 ERA in four starts against the Washington-Montreal franchise.
Washington (42-58), which has split 12 games overall since the All-Star break, has dropped nine of 11 on the road.
With Jason Simontacchi on the disabled list with an elbow injury, John Lannan will make his major league debut for the Nationals on Thursday. The 22-year-old left-hander was a combined 12-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 122 2-3 innings for Class-A Potomac, Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Columbus.
“I feel really good about it. I kept working hard and that’s what I’ve been doing all year. It paid off,” Lannan told the Nationals’ Web site.