Monday, August 17, 2009
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: A season of potential

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[August 17, 2009]  ATLANTA, Ga. (AP) -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel knows Ryan Howard is a dangerous hitter even when he's not tracking pitches perfectly.

"You never know when he's going to stay on it," Manuel said. "He was seeing the ball. He stayed with it."

Howard homered twice and drove in four runs to back rookie J.A. Happ's strong start, and Brad Lidge earned an easy save as Philadelphia beat the Atlanta Braves 4-1 on Sunday night.

The Phillies, winners in five of six, dropped third-place Atlanta six games back in the NL East and left the Braves in a fourth-place tie with Chicago in the wild-card race.

"There's a lot of games to be played," Braves starter Javier Vazquez (10-8) said. "We've got to keep fighting."

After his solo shot made it 1-0 in the second, Howard put the Phillies up 4-1 with his 30th homer in the sixth. Both homers came off Vazquez.


"You just see it," said Howard, who has driven in a run in seven straight games with 12 RBIs over that span. "Some days you pick it up better than other days."

Howard's multihomer game was his third this season and the 20th of his career, tying the slugger for third place on Philadelphia's career list with Dick Allen.

The Braves had won the last seven starts made by Vazquez, who allowed six hits, four runs and two walks in seven innings with seven strikeouts.

"The big guy's the guy that hurt us tonight," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said of Howard. "He can change a game in a heartbeat. We held them, we just couldn't get anything going."

Happ (9-2) surrendered three hits, including Matt Diaz's seventh homer in the fourth. The 26-year-old left-hander gave up one run, six walks and struck out three in 7 2-3 innings. He lowered his ERA to 2.66 and has become a solid member of the Phillies' rotation.

The Phillies improved to 37-20 on the road, best in the majors. They are 11-5 in their last 16 games away from Citizens Bank Park.

"Today it was Happ and Howard," Atlanta first baseman Adam LaRoche said after going 0 for 3. "Happ shut us down, and Howard did what he does."

Dodgers 9, Diamondbacks 3

At Phoenix, Randy Wolf finished a triple short of the cycle and pitched neatly into the eighth inning to help the Dodgers snap a three-game skid.

Wolf (7-6) retired 20 straight batters after Ryan Roberts singled with one out in the first inning.

Andre Ethier drove in four runs with four hits, also finishing a triple short of the cycle, and his three-run homer in the first off Yusmeiro Petit (2-7) gave Wolf an early cushion.

Wolf and Orlando Hudson had two-out, two-run homers in the fourth inning and Wolf had a single and an RBI double.

Astros 8, Brewers 5

At Milwaukee, Geoff Blum drove in four runs, and Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer in the eighth to rally the Astros.

Blum hit a three-run homer in the sixth and an RBI single in the ninth for Houston and Lance Berkman walked twice and scored three times.

The loss ended Milwaukee's three-game winning streak -- its longest since June -- and denied the Brewers (58-59) a chance to climb above .500 for the first time since July 25.

Marlins 10, Rockies 3, 1st Game

Rockies 7, Marlins 3, 2nd Game

At Miami, Clint Barmes and Brad Hawpe each hit two-run homers to give the Rockies a split of the doubleheader.

The Marlins won the opener 10-3 behind homers from Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan and a two-run single by Chris Volstad in a five-run second inning.

Starter Jorge De La Rosa got his ninth win in 10 decisions as the Rockies remained 1 1/2 games ahead of San Francisco in the NL wild-card race. Florida fell two games back.

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Nationals 5, Reds 4

At Cincinnati, Ryan Zimmerman drove in two runs with help from a defensive lapse, and the Nationals rallied for their third straight win.

Zimmerman pinch-hit for Alberto Gonzalez and lofted a bloop single to short right field, just under the glove of a diving Chris Dickerson -- in as a defensive replacement -- scoring two runs.

Jorge Sosa (2-1) allowed one hit in 1 2-3 innings of relief for the win.

Mets 3, Giants 2

At New York, Daniel Murphy hit a game-ending RBI single in the ninth inning, and Luis Castillo made up for David Wright's absence with a rare two-run homer.

Francisco Rodriguez (3-4) struck out the side in the ninth to earn the win, one day after giving up Bengie Molina's homer in the 10th inning of a 5-4 loss.

Castillo connected with two outs in the fifth inning off Jonathan Sanchez for his first homer since May 30, 2008, at Shea Stadium.

Cardinals 7, Padres 5

At St. Louis, Colby Rasmus' two-run homer capped a three-run ninth inning off All-Star closer Heath Bell, giving the Cardinals a three-game sweep.

Adrian Gonzalez hit his 32nd homer and singled three times for the Padres, who have lost five straight and have dropped nine in a row in St. Louis. Bell (4-2) lost in his first game in St. Louis since taking the loss in the All-Star game July 14, blowing only his second save in 31 chances.

Trever Miller (4-0) had a strikeout in a scoreless ninth for the NL Central leaders, who have won eight of nine.

[Associated Press; By GEORGE HENRY]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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