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Hamels, Howard lead Phillies past Nationals 8-4

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[April 20, 2010]  WASHINGTON (AP) -- Powered by Ryan Howard, the Philadelphia Phillies are 2-0 for the first time since 2003, thanks in large part to scoring 19 runs already.

Not that manager Charlie Manuel is going to say he's thrilled with his lineup's production so far.

Hardware"We want 19 a game," Manuel deadpanned, then acknowledged: "I probably wouldn't be satisfied with that."

Howard hit a two-run homer and an RBI double, Chase Utley and Placido Polanco also had two hits apiece, and the Phillies beat the Washington Nationals 8-4 on Wednesday night.

"I think our offense can be better. Yes, I do," Manuel said. "I think we're getting better as we go along, too, without a doubt."

That's saying something, considering the Phillies have nearly the same hitters they did last season, when they won their second consecutive NL championship and were the league's only club with at least 200 homers and 100 steals.


Having that sort of offense lessens the burden on the pitchers, as Cole Hamels (1-0) pointed out after laboring through five innings. He needed 103 pitches to get 15 outs and never retired the side in order. The left-hander gave up five hits and three runs, two earned, including rookie Ian Desmond's solo homer to straightaway center in the third.

"We know we have a really good hitting team. We showed that the first game, and we showed that the second game," said Hamels, who got into the act with an RBI single off Jason Marquis (0-1). "It's a really good feeling knowing these guys are going to put up some runs, and you just have to go out there and just try to plug away, get the job done and not really stress as much. It makes the game a little bit more easy."

After Washington tied it on Desmond's RBI double in the fourth, Marquis failed to get an out in the fifth. He allowed Polanco's double, Utley's RBI single, and Howard's drive to right-center.

Howard also homered in Monday's opener, an 11-1 victory for Philadelphia, and his nine homers in Nationals Park, which opened in 2008, are the most by a visiting player. He has seven homers and 18 RBIs in his past 12 games at the stadium.

"We've tried some different things on him. It's a game of adjustments. He's making adjustments on our pitching," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's just so dangerous."

Marquis had a different take.

The right-hander, who signed a $15 million, two-year contract with Washington as a free agent, made the case that Howard "does have holes in his swing."

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"When I made pitches on him tonight, I got him out," Marquis said. "When I left the one ball out, you saw what he was able to do with it. That's what he thrives on -- a ball up out over the plate, pitchers making a mistake, and getting the barrel through the ball. ... But there's a reason why he also strikes out 200 times, 180 times. He has holes in his swing. So if you make your pitches, you know, he's going to be an out."

So far this season, Howard is 4 for 11 with two homers and five RBIs.

The Phillies as a whole are 24 for 74 -- and Howard, like his manager, thinks the numbers will improve.

"The thing about it is, everybody's not on the same zone right now. We still got guys (struggling) -- it's still early," Howard said. "Not everybody's going on full tilt right now."

Marquis' debut in Washington was hardly auspicious: a 15-minute top of the first inning that included three walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch -- not to mention two runs. Things didn't end well for Marquis on this night, either: He allowed hits to six of the last seven batters he faced.

Philadelphia led 7-3 after seven but its bullpen made things somewhat interesting. Danys Baez allowed Cristian Guzman's leadoff triple in the eighth, Adam Kennedy's sacrifice fly and Willie Harris' double. Baez was replaced by Antonio Bastardo, who got one out, and then Ryan Madson recorded the last four outs for the save. Madson let the Nationals have two baserunners in the ninth before getting Ivan Rodriguez to ground into a game-ending double play.

"It's fun being a pitcher on this team," Madson said. "Seeing these guys hit every day is fun to watch."

NOTES: Nationals RF Mike Morse left the game with a strained left calf before the top of the eighth, so Guzman entered to play right, his first regular-season appearance in the field as anything but a shortstop in an 11-year major league career. Guzman lost his starting shortstop job to Desmond in spring training. ... After an announced sellout of 41,290 for Game 1, the Nationals drew 27,240 fans for Game 2.

[Associated Press; By HOWARD FENDRICH]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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