The momentum is on Philadelphia’s side following Howard’s walkoff home run, and the club’s six-game deficit going into this series could be cut in half Wednesday with a third win in as many days over the New York Mets.
“Every game down the stretch is a playoff-atmosphere type game, especially with the Mets in town,” Howard said. “That’s all you can ask for. You just want to get the feel for it.”
Losses in six of seven games dropped the Phillies (69-62) seven games behind the NL East-leading Mets on Aug. 25, their biggest deficit since the All-Star break. Just as some started to write off Philadelphia’s chances of winning its first division title since 1993, the team has responded with three straight wins.
The last two have come in this four-game set, winning 9-2 on Monday before rallying for a 4-2 victory in 10 innings on Tuesday. After Tom Glavine blanked the Phillies through seven innings, they scored twice in the eighth before Howard’s 35th home run ended the game.
“We’ve got to win at least one more, but the series hasn’t started out like we wanted it to,” Glavine said.
In 14 games from Aug. 8-23, Howard hit .160 (8-for-50) with one homer, six RBIs and 19 strikeouts. He’s bounced back in the last five games to go 11-for-21 (.524) with two homers, nine RBIs and one strikeout.
The reigning NL MVP is no longer on pace to set the major league record for strikeouts in a season—he still leads the majors with 152—and he tops the NL with 108 RBIs while ranking third in home runs.
Leadoff man Jimmy Rollins hit his 23rd homer Tuesday and has two hits in each contest during Philadelphia’s three-game win streak. He’s hit .333 (19-for-57) with five homers and 10 RBIs in 13 games against New York this year.
The Mets (73-58) now look to even the season series at seven games apiece.
New York has been held to two runs in three straight games while matching its longest losing streak since the All-Star break. The top four hitters in the Mets lineup—Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, David Wright and Carlos Beltran—are 2-for-32 (.063) in this series.
The only runs the Mets produced Tuesday came off Carlos Delgado’s two-run homer. Delgado was in an 0-for-16 drought before being dropped to the No. 6 spot in New York’s lineup in his last three games, going 4-for-12 with four RBIs.
Delgado has hit .381 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 27 games at Citizens Bank Park. Those numbers could improve Wednesday considering he’s hit .419 (26-for-62) with seven homers against Jamie Moyer (11-10, 5.16 ERA), who gets the start for Philadelphia.
Moyer has been awful in losing his last two outings, allowing 16 runs and 19 hits in 8 2-3 innings. He lost for the first time in six home starts on Friday, giving up eight runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 14-3 defeat to San Diego.
The 44-year-old left-hander has pitched fairly well in two starts against the Mets this season, allowing five earned runs in 13 innings, but has gone 0-1. He is 5-3 with a 2.88 ERA in 12 career starts versus New York.
New York counters with Oliver Perez (12-8, 3.34 ERA), coming off his best start in more than two months. The left-hander gave up three hits in seven scoreless innings in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday to win his second straight start.
Opposing batters are hitting .224 against Perez, who has won six of his last eight outings. He’s won his last four road starts, and is 6-3 with a 3.16 ERA away from home.
Perez is 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA in two starts against the Phillies, but hasn’t faced them since 2004, when he was with Pittsburgh.
New York’s bullpen, meanwhile, has a 7.20 ERA and a .369 opponent batting average over the last eight games after giving up four runs in two-plus innings Tuesday.
Guillermo Mota served up Howard’s home run, and in his last seven appearances, he has a 12.96 ERA while allowing 13 hits and four walks in 8 1-3 innings. Closer Billy Wagner has yet to appear in this series, but has given up at least one run in three straight appearances while yielding seven hits and two walks.