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Ryno Beginning To Bust Out; Phils Win

Ryan Howard had another big game, driving in two with three hits in the Phillies’ 7-5 win over the Astros. Among those hits were an opposite-field double and opposite-field home run that bounced somewhere off the large train bridge wall at Minute Maid Park. We can see the improvement — he’s standing in the middle of the box, not the back, and seeing the pitch all the way through. Both big hits were on balls tailing outside, and Howard waited on them until he could strike them to the left. The double was a pure laser; the home run was an absolute bomb.

Howard led a Phillies offense that kept chugging along; Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino set the pace, getting on base four times with hits. Pedro Feliz had two hits, and now has seven in his last 13 at bats. Chase Utley added an RBI single, which padded the lead, grabbed by a pinch-hit, eighth inning home run by Pat Burrell. Charlie Manuel had given Burrell a bench ride, as he was struggling horribly at the plate. So of course, Burrell tattooed a 3-2 pitch to break out of his slump on a pinch. If there’s one thing Manuel does incredibly right, it’s playing his bench.

After Burrell’s homer and Utley’s single, Tom Gordon held the lead in the eighth and Brad Lidge, pitching in Minute Maid Park for the first time as an opponent, seized the save by making best friend Lance Berkman pop out. It was Lidge’s 12th save in 12 chances, and he lowered his ERA to a staggering 0.43.

Kyle Kendrick had a tough start, going only five innings and earning all five Astro runs. The last came with JC Romero on the mound, who blew his fourth save of the season. Sometimes it’s hit-or-miss with Romero and inherited runners. But Kendrick was mediocre, wiggling out of trouble throughout the game until the Astros figured him out in the sixth. Ty Wigginton’s double, which brought the Astros within one and took Kendrick out of the game, came on a hanging changeup. Kendrick still can’t fool anyone with that pitch.

But with this offense most nights, starting pitching doesn’t have to be spectacular. Burrell’s homer was a tremendous lift, as yet again the Phils took advantage of a bad bullpen. And once a game becomes a battle of bullpens, it seems the Phils will almost always win.

Jayson Werth left the game after an inning of defense. He has a right oblique strain — more on him coming.

Associated Press photo

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