Howard drives in seven, but Phils fall

Howard drives in seven, but Phils fall

PHILADELPHIA -- Blaring rap music was supposed to drown out Ryan Howard's recollections of a career-high night at Citizens Bank Park.

Teammates were supposed to be gathered around lockers marveling at Howard's upper-deck job, his second homer sent to the opposite-field and his exhausting two-run triple slashed off lefty specialist Mike Myers. A postgame celebration of a second stirring win over the Yankees was planned, with Howard as the centerpiece.

Instead, Howard sat quietly in a nearly empty clubhouse, discussing his weak, first-pitch grounder to second off superstar closer Mariano Rivera that sealed Tuesday's 9-7 loss. Basking stayed at a minimum, despite his seven-RBI performance. The powerful second-year player broke three ties with his two homers and a triple, and carried the Phillies offense on his 252-pound frame.

"This was a tough one," Howard said. "I'll go home and think about this one."

If only Howard could only pitch. Philadelphia lost because its bullpen relinquished a 7-5 lead given to them on Howard's triple. Arthur Rhodes struggled the most when he started the eighth inning by allowing four straight hits. All four scored, with Johnny Damon delivering a go-ahead two-run triple.

Rhodes, who pitched a perfect inning on Monday, couldn't replicate that feat. He's had his troubles against the Yankees, with a career ERA of 7.55 in 58 appearances, including the playoffs. He didn't speak to the media after the game.

"Our bullpen failed us," said manager Charlie Manuel, who said that he was going to bring in closer Tom Gordon if Damon made an out.

The night belonged to Howard from the first inning, when he deposited a Mike Mussina pitch over the AutoTrader sign in the upper deck, the first ball to reach the third level. Barry Bonds' 713th career homer would've reached that region, but it hit off the McDonald's sign.

"[Howard's] was the farthest ball I've seen hit, other than the one to center," Brett Myers said. The one to center traveled over the batter's eye and landed an estimated 496 feet away.

Tuesday's first shot came in at 461 feet, and was the first of Howard's 14 homers this season at home that he pulled.

"Every time the ball hits his bat, it's like, 'What's going to happen this time?'" Shane Victorino said. "It's something special to watch, always."

Howard became the first Phillie in more than four years to drive in seven runs, since pitcher Robert Person on June 2, 2002. His 66 RBIs lead the Majors, and his 25 homers are tied with Albert Pujols for the Major League lead.

His second homer left the park in the more traditional way -- smacked to left field. Starter Cory Lidle had allowed the Yankees to tie the game at 3 in the top of the fourth, so Howard's poke gave Philadelphia its second lead of the night.

The Yankees tied the game with single runs in the sixth and seventh, setting up Howard's triple off Mike Myers, the third pitcher used by Joe Torre in the seventh. Myers entered the game holding batters to a .207 average for his career.

Howard didn't care.

With the Yankees leading, 9-7, Rivera started his second inning by allowing singles to Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, bringing up Howard in a battle between one of the game's up-and-coming sluggers against the game's best closer.

"I was thinking, 'He already had enough fun,'" Alex Rodriguez said. "Take your seven RBIs and take it to the house, let us win the game. He had an incredible game."

"I'm just thinking, 'You're a young kid, you'll have plenty of time to get 10 RBIs in a game,'" Damon added. "'Just don't do it tonight.'"

The Phillies were thinking good thoughts.

"That would've made it a special night," Manuel said.

"We were talking about it. That would have been nice for him to get 10 ribbies and a walk-off home run," Lidle said.

Howard went up expecting Rivera's signature split-finger fastball. He got it on the first pitch and grounded out.

"The cutter is absolutely filthy," Howard said. "Everybody looks for it, but you still can't hit it."

The end result did not take away from Howard's accomplishments.

"Everything the kid did today was amazing, the upper-deck home run, to going [opposite field] to the triple," Victorino said. "What more can you ask out of a day?"

A win.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.