NEW YORK - Despite home run numbers that are sluggish by his standards, Ryan Howard said Friday night that his power is still there.
It's getting closer to showing up in the box scores.
Howard's pinch-hit two-run double to the deepest part of Citi Field snapped a tie in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon and lifted the Philadelphia Phillies to a 5-1 win over the New York Mets and a sweep of the three-game series in front of 28,990.
Nine players - including Freddy Galvis, who hit a solo homer in the fifth for Philadelphia's first run - had one hit apiece for the Phillies (12-14), who completed their first series sweep since a three-game sweep of the Mets at Citi Field last Sept. 17-20.
"We're just trying to end April on a good note and try to take that momentum into May," Howard said.
His RBI double capped a productive weekend for Howard, who hit a three-run homer to center field to cap a four-run sixth inning in the Phillies' 4-0 win Friday and had two long fly outs, including a sacrifice fly to cap a three-run third, in Saturday's 9-4 win.
"I think he's starting to get there," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think he's been staying on the ball good."
Might Saturday's long fly outs, and Sunday's double, be homers in warmer weather or in less spacious parks?
"Possibly," Howard said with a grin. "Only one way to find out: Try to do the same thing."
Howard has 10 extra-base hits, including just three homers, in 91 at-bats. Those are decent numbers for most people, but below the norm for Howard, a two-time NL home run champion who has 303 homers and has averaged an extra-base hit every 7.9 at-bats as a big leaguer.
Howard feels he's been swinging the bat well but has been victimized by some tough luck. That was the case in his second at-bat Sunday, when he hit a shot up the middle that was cleanly fielded by shortstop Ruben Tejada, who was playing behind second base in the familiar Howard shift.
"I've been swinging it pretty good," Howard said. "Had a couple bad games here and there, but for the most part I feel like I've hit the ball hard. My last at-bat against [Bobby] Parnell, I hit it back hard up the middle, but you've got the guy right there playing in that shift. I feel like it's now just trying to continue to get things to fall."
The Mets (10-13) were three-hit for the second time in three games as they lost for the fourth time in a row to finish 3-6 on the homestand. New York scored four runs or fewer in six of the final seven games -- and won the other game, 7-3, on a 10th-inning walk-off grand slam Wednesday night by Jordany Valdespin.
"You've got to stay positive," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You can't get down [and say], 'Oh, now we're in this hole.' We're not in a hole. You have a good May, you bounce out of it. We've got five months left, so we'll rally back."
The teams were tied 1-1 heading into the seventh, when losing pitcher Jonathon Niese retired the first two batters and got pinch-hitter Laynce Nix to pop up in front of the Phillies' dugout. But the ball glanced off the glove of Mets catcher John Buck for the Mets' third error of the afternoon.
Buck said he lost his footing a bit as he moved from the grass to the dirt but that he should have made the catch.
"I feel anything that hit my glove, [I] should be able to catch it," Buck said.
Unlike the first two errors -- both of which happened in the first inning -- this miscue haunted the Mets.
Nix and Jimmy Rollins singled to chase Niese. Howard, who had the day off against the left-hander Niese, pinch-hit for Kevin Frandsen and welcomed Scott Atchison by crushing a 2-0 pitch off the middle of the wall in centerfield, more than 400 feet from home plate, to score Nix and Rollins.
The double was Howard's 11th extra-base hit in just 38 pinch-hit at-bats.
"Even though you don't start in the game you still remain in the game mentally," Howard said of pinch-hitting. "You know there's going to be a situation where you might potentially come up and pinch-hit, and usually it's a situation where it can turn the tide of the game."
Howard came home on Chase Utley's single to cap the fourth inning this weekend in which the Phillies scored at least three runs. The Phillies added an insurance run in the eighth, when Domonic Brown singled and scored on John Mayberry's RBI double.
The seventh-inning rally made a winner out of Cole Hamels, who notched his first victory of the season despite tying a career high with six walks in six innings. Hamels, who also walked six against the Braves last July 27, allowed one run on two hits and struck out eight.
Niese allowed three runs, including one earned, on five hits and one walk while striking out six in 6 2/3 innings.
Tejada had two doubles and scored the Mets' lone run on Wright's first-inning RBI single. The Mets left the bases loaded in the third, when Hamels walked three batters before striking out Niese.
NOTES: Collins said reliever Frank Francisco, who is in the midst of a rehab assignment at Single-A St. Lucie, is doing "OK -- not great, OK." Francisco had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow last September but was sidelined during spring training with inflammation in the elbow. He has not appeared in a game for St. Lucie since April 20 but threw 25 pitches on Saturday. Collins said Francisco will need to be able to throw on consecutive days before the Mets consider bringing him back to the majors. ... Wright's 77-game errorless streak came to an end when he bobbled Utley's grounder in the first inning Sunday. Wright's errorless streak was the longest by a third baseman in team history, breaking the previous mark of 54 set by Lenny Randle in 1978. ... Mets pitcher Dillon Gee turned 27 on Sunday. ... Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz returned from a 25-game suspension for using a banned amphetamine and went 1-for-4. The Phillies made room for Ruiz on the 25-man roster by designating for assignment catcher Humberto Quintero, who started seven of the 25 games Ruiz missed and hit .250 with two RBI. ... Outfielder Ben Revere missed his fourth straight game for the Phillies with a sore left quad. ... The Phillies' off-day Monday is their second and last in a 37-day span from April 5 through May 12. Philadelphia visits Cleveland for a two-game series starting Tuesday.