PHILADELPHIA — After helping the Phillies win the first game of this series against the Houston Astros, knocking in both runs Philadelphia scored, Ryan Howard was asked about the faith his manager, Ryne Sandberg, has had keeping him in the clean up spot.
"People forget what I've done," Howard said.
He followed up that performance with another solid showing Wednesday and with a couple more nights like that, Howard won't need to go back in time to justify his playing time, contract or anything he's had to address this season.
Howard put the Phillies on the board early with a double and went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in a 10-3 win over the Astros.
Ben Revere was also a catalyst on offense. He had four hits, bringing his season average up to .309, and scored two runs.
Sandberg thought the production from the top of the lineup — the first five Phillies hitters accounted for 10 of the 11 hits on the night — really helped set the tone.
"It makes a big difference all the way around," Sandberg said. "It makes a big difference with the rest of the offense and the at-bats. It becomes contagious along with the pitching, it goes a long way with the starting pitching."
Revere got things rolling, leading off the bottom of the first with a single and Jimmy Rollins followed with a double down the right field line.
Howard's double to the gap in left field drove in both runs to make it 2-1. After two walks, which loaded the bases, he scooted home from third on a wild pitch and Wil Nieves tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly, scoring Marlon Byrd.
Even Philadelphia's starting pitcher, David Buchanan, got in on the fun. He recorded his first major league hit and RBI, extending the lead to 5-1.
The Phillies sent nine batters to the plate in the first and scored more runs in that inning than they did in their last four games combined (4).
The Astros got one of those runs back in the fourth off Buchanan. Matt Dominguez started the inning with a double and a ground out and sacrifice fly brought him home making it 5-2.
Philadelphia countered in the bottom of the inning with help from Chase Utley.
After Buchanan walked and Rollins singled, Utley hit his 10th home run of the year to extend the Phillies' lead to 8-2.
The run support from the Phillies offense helped pick up Buchanan, who allowed the first batter of the game to reach base and eventually plate the initial run of the game. The 25-year-old, filling in for the injured Cliff Lee and making his first start with the team since July 10, seemed to get better as the game progressed, getting a boost from the early offensive outburst.
"That was huge, that made me want to pound the strike zone even more," Buchanan said. "With a five-run lead, your job is to get back in the dugout as quick as possible and put up a zero. So when I got back out there it was, 'Here's strike one.' That was it."
Buchanan left to a standing ovation from the Citizens Bank Park crowd after 6 1/3 innings. The starter was responsible for one man still on base but Jake Diekman came in and got Buchanan off the hook.
He finished the night giving up nine hits, however, yielded only three runs. Buchanan's control was key — he didn't allow any walks.
Not only is Buchanan pitching to help Philadelphia this season, he's also in the middle of an audition for 2015, a year in which the Phillies will likely be desperate for starting pitching.
So far, things are going well. Wednesday night's outing marked the ninth time in his 11 major league starts this season that he allowed three or fewer earned runs. He's also accomplished that in seven straight games, dropping his ERA over a run and a half in those starts.
Buchanan's manager agreed that this is a chance for him to possibly lock down a spot in the rotation going forward.
"It's a good opportunity for him," Sandberg said. "He made a good showing when he was here with us [earlier in the season] so now he'll have some starts … it's an opportunity to show what he can do, to learn from it, to get better, gain experience and continue to impress."
Notes: Chase Utley now has 11 straight double-digit home run seasons. … The Phillies have won five of their last six games at Citizens Bank Park and have averaged 6.6 runs per game during that stretch.
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