Another late August ballgame, another monster performance from Ryan Howard. The man Charlie Manuel has taken to calling "The Big Piece" did it again Friday night, pounding two more home runs and driving in three as the Phillies stretched their NL East lead to a season-high eight games.
Howard's first homer, a solo shot against Braves rookie Tommy Hanson, opened the scoring and came shortly before a sixty-eight minute rain delay that stopped the game in the bottom of the second. The game very briefly resumed... and then the tarp came right back out as the teams waited through another forty-five minutes of rain. When the game was back on, both Hanson and Pedro Martinez, soon to be known as Foul Weather Pete, were off for the evening. As was the case a week and a half back against Arizona, Jamie Moyer came on in long relief for Pedro--and, once again, he was terrific. Moyer worked 4 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and a run to qualify for his 12th win of the season.
He got more help in the fourth from Howard, who launched a two-run blast off Atlanta reliever Kris Medlen to put the Phils up 3-0. The Braves got a run back in the fifth on one of three Matt Diaz doubles in the game, but the Phils stretched the lead to 4-1 in the seventh on a Raul Ibanez triple and Pedro Feliz bloop single. Ryan Madson got into trouble in the 8th, allowing one run and loading the bases with two outs before getting Adam LaRoche to fly to deep center. The sellout crowd held its breath as Brad Lidge came on for the ninth inning. But the struggling closer put the Braves down 1-2-3, striking out Diaz to end it.
With the Marlins' 9-5 loss to the Padres, the Phillies lead both Atlanta and Florida by eight. They'll look to add another win against the Braves Saturday as Cliff Lee faces Derek Lowe.