Howard's blasts help Phils outslug Nats

Howard's blasts help Phils outslug Nats

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard has won a National League Rookie of the Year Award. He has been named the NL Most Valuable Player.

The Phillies slugger won a World Series in 2008.

Along the way, the imposing first baseman has hit some mammoth home runs. That's why his feat was so impressive in the Phillies' 9-6 victory over the Nationals before a sellout crowd of 45,121 on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.

Howard had already hit a 426-foot solo home run to right-center field when he stepped up to the plate in the third inning against Washington right-hander Shairon Martis. Howard outdid himself, as he launched a 1-0 changeup into the third deck for a grand slam. Right fielder Adam Dunn didn't even move.

The shot traveled 475 feet.

"It definitely felt good," Howard said. "I tried to get in there and get a good at-bat. I just tried to get a good swing. I knew it was out. I just started running. I wasn't really sure where it was going. I wasn't sure where it was going to land."

Howard's 19th career multi-homer game stole the show and the game for Philadelphia. The eighth grand slam of his career set a new franchise record, passing Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt.

It was Howard's third grand slam this season and the second home run to reach the third deck in right field in Citizens Bank Park history. The first, also hit by Howard, occurred on June 20, 2006, against former Yankees starter Mike Mussina.

"As long as it gets out over the fence, it's good," Howard said. "All the excitement of how far is extra."

There is excitement for Howard for many reasons. Keep in mind that Schmidt hit his seventh career grand slam on Aug. 15, 1983, at Wrigley Field in his 5,504th career at-bat and his 1,593rd career game. Howard hit his eighth career grand slam in his 2,257th career at-bat and his 619th career game.

"It's pretty cool," Howard said. "I don't think it's really hit me yet. It's one of those things that will hit me later when I stop and think about it."

Howard's power surge provided Philadelphia with enough offense to withstand a shaky start from Cole Hamels.

Hamels (3-2) struck out seven, but just when the Phils most needed to solidify their rotation, he allowed six runs on eight hits in six innings. Nationals catcher Wil Nieves doubled in two runs in the second, and in the sixth, Ronnie Belliard smacked a pinch-hit two-run homer.

"I pitched pretty bad," Hamels said. "I had a lot of mistakes. They are a good hitting team. You can't make mistakes on them."

The goal for Hamels is to extend his innings in his next projected start.

"I have to get deeper in the game," Hamels said. "Six innings and about 100 pitches -- that's not good enough. To be a top-line starter, I have to go seven or eight innings and keep the pitch count down."

Howard received another bases-loaded at-bat in the sixth. With most of the fans on their feet, he grounded to second baseman Anderson Hernandez, who booted the ball, allowing two runners to scamper home.

"Of course, I wanted to see him hit another one," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Howard insisted he was simply trying to hit the ball hard somewhere.

"I was trying to get a good pitch in," Howard said.

The Phils have won the first two contests of this three-game set, giving them their second home series victory of their season. They took two of three when Washington came to town in late April.

Philadelphia improved to a season-high seven games above .500 at 27-20 and moved a half-game ahead of the Mets for first place in the NL East.

Brad Lidge earned his 11th save in a nine-pitch effort in the ninth.

However, Howard was clearly the story on this night.

"He's just as strong as anyone," Manuel said. "I've seen him hit some long ones."

None further than his 475-foot blast. At least until next time.

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