Howard leads Phils' homer parade

Howard leads Phils' homer parade

ST. LOUIS -- "Unreal."

Charlie Manuel kept repeating the word Monday night.

The Phillies manager had just survived a three-hour, 19-minute slugfest that saw his team jump out to an 11-run lead, watch Ryan Howard and Aaron Rowand each hit a pair of home runs and then witness his shorthanded bullpen nearly give it all back.

Manuel will take the final result, a 13-11 victory in front of a sellout crowd at Busch Stadium, but it certainly wasn't easy on the 63-year-old manager.

"It was trying my heart," Manuel said. "I had open-heart surgery. My heart was starting to beat a little quick. That's all right. It's a good test for it, I guess."

Philadelphia (81-69) is now 2 1/2 games behind the New York Mets in the National League East and 1 1/2 games behind the San Diego Padres in the NL Wild Card standings. The Mets lost to Washington, 12-4, on Monday. The Padres beat Pittsburgh, 3-0.

The Cardinals (70-79) lost for the 11th time in their last 12 games.

It was another happy homecoming for Howard, the Phillies first baseman who graduated from Lafayette High School in suburban St. Louis in 1998.

Howard hit his 39th home run of the season -- his second at the new Busch Stadium -- in the second inning to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

Philadelphia put up five runs in the fourth, as center fielder Rowand pounded his 25th homer, a two-run shot, deep into the left-center bleachers and shortstop Jimmy Rollins hit his 28th home run of the year, a three-run shot off reliever Andy Cavazos.

After right fielder Jayson Werth added an RBI single in the fifth, Howard hit a line drive opposite-field grand slam with two outs in the sixth to make it 11-0.

"You just try to score as many runs as you can," Howard said. "In this case tonight, we needed them."

The 2006 National League Most Valuable Player, who hit 58 home runs and drove in 149 runs a season ago, now has 40 home runs and 120 RBIs this season. In seven career games in St. Louis, Howard has 12 hits in 30 at-bats (.400) with a double, three homers, 14 RBIs and six runs scored. He also has at least one hit in each of the 14 lifetime games he's played against the Cards.

Phillies rookie right-hander Kyle Kendrick (9-4) cruised through the first five innings, allowing only four hits, including two infield singles. But he ran into trouble in the sixth inning when he surrendered an RBI single to first baseman Albert Pujols and then a two-run home run to left fielder Ryan Ludwick, his 14th of the year.

"I kind of lost focus a little bit and left some balls up," Kendrick said.

Philadelphia added a run in the seventh on pinch-hitter Shane Victorino's sacrifice fly, and then Manuel turned the game over to the bullpen, which was without J.C. Romero, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers.

"You just try to score as many runs as you can. In this case tonight, we needed them."
-- Ryan Howard

Right-hander Clay Condrey entered the game and allowed five straight batters to reach base without getting an out -- with Aaron Miles' two-run single to center making the score 12-5 -- before being pulled in favor of Jose Mesa.

Mesa gave up a two-run double to Pujols, an RBI groundout by Ludwick and a run-scoring sac fly by right fielder Rick Ankiel that saw the Phillies' lead shrink from seven to 12-9.

The Cardinals got two more runs in the eighth off righty relievers Antonio Alfonseca and Kane Davis.

Alfonseca allowed Brian Barden to reach on a one-out single and then walked Russell Branyan. Davis entered and got Miles to fly out, but Barden went to third on the play and then scored on a passed ball. When Branyan scored on outfielder Skip Schumaker's RBI single to left-center, the Phillies lead was down to one at 12-11.

With runners on second and third and two outs, Ludwick drove a ball deep to the right-center gap. Rowand tracked it down, caught it as he was falling down at the warning track and held on to it for the third out.

"He's been huge for us," Howard said. "His coming back [with a home run in the ninth] after they [cut the lead to] one run was definitely huge. He's come through huge in some big moments, making big plays on defense and with the bat."

Rowand followed up his fantastic catch with a leadoff home run in the ninth -- his second home run of the game and 26th of the season -- off Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen. It was the Phillies' fifth home run of the night and gave them a little breathing room.

But not much.

"It was getting tight," Rowand said. "No doubt about it. They got within one."

Left-hander Fabio Castro came on in the ninth and struck out Ankiel with a fastball on the outside corner before being pulled for Francisco Rosario.

Rosario, who entered the game without a save in his career, walked the first batter he faced, So Taguchi, and then surrendered a single to right field to pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo.

Rosario retired the next batter, Barden, on a pop-up to first base. He then ran the count on Branyan to 3-2 before catching him looking at a mid-90s fastball for the 27th out.

"I don't know what to say," Manuel said. "That was unreal."

Nate Latsch is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.