PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Ryan Howard is making the most of the few pitches he gets to see.
Howard connected for his major league-leading 58th homer, Cole Hamels pitched 6 2-3 strong innings and the Philadelphia Phillies continued their playoff push with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Marlins on Friday night.
Howard moved closer toward becoming the sixth player to ever reach 60 homers when he lined a three-run shot off Ricky Nolasco into the seats in left-center in the third inning.
He got one more chance to hit, before being intentionally walked two more times in unusual situations.
“My mind-set is the same,” he said. “I always have to be ready to hit.”
The Phillies (80-73) entered the night a half-game behind Los Angeles in the NL wild-card standings. Philadelphia is 34-19 since July 29, the day before trading outfielder Bobby Abreu to the New York Yankees as part of a midseason roster purge.
Hamels (9-8) gave up one run and six hits to win for the fifth time in seven decisions. The rookie left-hander struck out 10. He tipped his hat to the crowd as he walked off to a standing ovation in the seventh.
Tom Gordon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 33rd save.
“They’re definitely talking winning baseball and they’re excited about everything,” manager Charlie Manuel said.
Florida, which earlier in the month became the first team in history to bring its record above .500 after being 20 games below that mark, fell to 76-78. Despite having the lowest payroll in the majors, the Marlins came in four games behind the Dodgers.
He worked the count to his advantage before hitting yet another opposite-field homer to put the Phillies ahead 4-0. With fans chanting “M-V-P!” and waving white rally towels, Howard came out of the dugout for a curtain call.
“I hear it. It’s a good feeling, but you have to tune it out and get locked in,” Howard said.
It was Howard’s 29th homer at home, tying Chuck Klein’s team mark set in 1932. His 143 RBIs match Don Hurst’s club record for a first baseman set in 1932.
Howard is the second Philadelphia player to hit 58 homers in a season. Jimmie Foxx did it for the Philadelphia A’s in 1932.
Only five players—Barry Bonds (73), Mark McGwire (70, 65), Sammy Sosa (66, 64, 63), Roger Maris (61) and Babe Ruth (60)—have reached 60 homers. Howard, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, has nine games remaining to join that elite group.
“I’ve never seen anyone like him. He’s something else,” Nolasco said.
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the first when Utley’s bloop single to center scored Rollins, who fisted a double down the left-field line leading off.
Nolasco (11-10) allowed four runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings.
Miguel Cabrera’s broken-bat blooper fell in for an RBI-single with two outs in the fifth to cut Florida’s deficit to 4-1.
After Howard was intentionally walked with two outs and a runner on first in the sixth, Jeff Conine drove in a run with a single to center to make it 5-1.
Howard again was intentionally walked in the eighth with two outs and no one on. Conine followed with a double to right-center, but Howard was thrown out trying to score.
“We don’t want him to hit homers,” Marlins manager Joe Girardi said of Howard. “He’s having a great season.”
Cabrera became the fourth player in major league history to have 50 doubles and 25 homers in a season before his 24th birthday. … A crowd of 44,737 was the Phillies’ 15th sellout of the season. … Philadelphia has won six of seven and eight of 10. The Phillies are seven games over .500 for the first time since reaching 22-15 on May 14. They are 39-39 at home.