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Howard lifts Phillies over Astros in 15th inning

PHILADELPHIA — Heading into Tuesday night's game against the Houston Astros, the Phillies had three streaks they wanted to see end.

The first was a 21-inning scoreless stretch they carried into the evening. The other two were Ryan Howard's 0-for-14 stretch at the plate and Utley's 0-for-16.

All three were taken care of and one of Howard's hits helped the Phillies earn a 2-1 walk-off win over Astros in 15 innings. It was the 10th game-ending hit of Howard's career.

The Phillies ended their scoring drought pretty quickly Tuesday night, extending it to 22 innings before Howard recorded his first hit since July 30, a solo home run to left field.

On the seven-game road trip the Phillies just finished up, Howard was in quite the slump, going just 1-for-25. He returned to his old ways in his second at-bat. He saw nine pitches, fouled four of them off of lefty Dallas Keuchel and eventually grounded out into the defensive shift that was put on him. Howard also grounded into two double plays but made up for it all in the 15th.

Grady Sizemore began the inning with a single and was moved to second by Ben Revere's sacrifice bunt. The Astros intentionally walked Utley to get to Howard and the first baseman made them pay. He grounded a single into right field and Sizemore was able to plate the winning run.

Howard wasn't thrilled knowing Houston would rather face him than one of his teammates.

"You want to go up there with a little chip on your shoulder," Howard said. "I felt the at-bat before [where I struck out], the pitch was a little bit up but with two strikes, probably have to go after it. ... The [next] time, them walking Chase, I wanted to get it done."

The Phillies tied a franchise record with their fifth game of at least 14 innings this season. The only other time they accomplished that was 1958.

Another one of Howard's veteran teammates, Utley, had similar troubles over the past week, going 1-for-24 in the six games he played. The second baseman stretched his hitless run to 18 at-bats, grounding out to second in the first and fourth, before snapping the skid by singling in the sixth.

Dominant early on, Kyle Kendrick gave the Phillies a chance, turning in one of his best outings of the season.

The starter retired the first 10 batters he faced before Robbie Grossman ended any thoughts of perfection singling with one out in the fourth. Kendrick still finished the inning facing the minimum as Carlos Ruiz threw out Grossman attempting to steal second.

The right-hander, who was able to stay ahead of hitters and control his fastball, hurled seven innings of one-run baseball, allowing five hits.

Playing the Astros for the first time since Houston joined the American League prior to the 2013 season, it was the first look the Phillies got at Jon Singleton, one of the prospects Philadelphia dealt to get Hunter Pence at the 2011 trade deadline, since he reached the majors. He was the reason Kendrick received a no-decision, tying the game at 1-1 with a hit in the seventh.

Kendrick began the inning by allowing a walk and single, before Singleton's base knock. The inning could have gone much worse, with runners at the corners and no outs, but Kendrick kept things close getting a fly out and ground ball for a double play.

The bullpen did its job, although the first few men needed a lot of pitches. Ken Giles, Jonathan Papelbon and Jake Diekman kept things tied, each throwing one inning, from the eighth to the 10th, but needed 80 pitches. Bastardo was most impressive throwing two innings, keeping the Astros off the scoreboard, and was efficient in doing so. He struck out six of the seven hitters he faced.

"He had good stuff tonight," Sandberg said. "He was throwing 94 [mph]. I think that's some of the best fastballs possibly we've seen all year. He was ready to go and probably well-rested. Whatever the case was, that was as good as if I've seen him. And then sharp breaking balls down. He was on his game.

Hector Neris made his major league debut in the 15th and earned the win. While he did get the job done, it wasn't enough to stay with the Phillies. Following the game, to make room for David Buchanan, Wednesday night's starter, Philadelphia optioned Neris back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Even though the Phillies got the win, they have scored only twice in their last 36 innings.

Notes: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins started in their 887th regular season game together at first, second and shortstop, respectively. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that sets a new major league record for most games started by teammates at those positions passing the Dodgers' trio of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Bill Russell. … The Phillies have now won six in a row against the Astros at Citizens Bank Park.

smgross@mcall.com

Twitter @SteveGrossMCall

610-820-6187

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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