Phillies 8, Braves 7, 1st game; Braves 3, Phillies 1, 11 innings, 2nd game

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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 1 1/2 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 RBIs 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 pitch.

Chad Paronto (2-2) pitched a scoreless 10th and Bob Wickman, who blew a save chance in the opener, pitched the 11th for his 12th save.

With the Phillies bullpen blowing late leads without closer Tom Gordon, Brett Myers stayed in for eight innings, striking out 10 and allowing three hits. He gave up Orr’s RBI single in the third.

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 RBIs. 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 132 RBIs are the most by a Phillie since 1932.

“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, 1970.

“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 said.

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 half.

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.

Notes

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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