Phillies fly from Cincy on brooms

Phillies fly from Cincy on brooms

CINCINNATI -- Ryan Howard spent the better part of Sunday's early-morning hours in a hospital, feeling the effects of a stomach virus. By his graphic account, it wasn't pretty.

He spent the better part of the afternoon rounding the bases, feeling the effects of being responsible for the Phillies' 13th win in their past 14 games, this time 2-1 over the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

"Keep him sick," said Tom Gordon.

Despite feeling weak and dizzy, Howard crawled from the dugout with two outs in the top of the eighth -- with the Phillies trailing, 1-0 -- and sent a Brandon Claussen curveball over the right-field fence. He stayed in the game, then won it with a 12th-inning homer well over the 404-foot sign in straightaway center.

"Unbelievable," said Pat Burrell.

"He won the game for us today. ... Twice," added Brett Myers.

Though he still looked weak and gaunt after the game, Howard felt much better as he rounded the bases.

"It felt really good," said Howard. "We were able to get the win. That was cool."

Howard made the Reds sick, filling up on Cincinnati pitching and allowing the Phillies to sweep the series and head to Milwaukee with continued momentum. Howard also smacked a two-run homer on Friday.

"We come to the ballpark expecting to win," said manager Charlie Manuel. "We're good as far as being together and our chemistry. I've got a good feeling about our club right now."

Howard's quick recovery aside, this latest surge has been led by pitching. Ever since Cory Lidle's early exit on Wednesday, the foursome of Gavin Floyd, Cole Hamels, Jon Lieber and Myers has compiled an 0.35 ERA and allowed just nine hits in 25 2/3 innings.

Myers took the baton from Hamels and Lieber and turned in the third dominating performance of the series. He allowed one run on four hits in seven innings, and struck out five. His lone blemish came on a fastball that Jason LaRue deposited into the second deck. Other than that, only Adam Dunn, in the second inning, made it to second base.

Though Myers hasn't received a decision in his previous three outings, the Phillies have won all three of those games.

"That's huge," said Myers. "I'm not going to be greedy. Win the games that I start. That's fine with me."

As well as Myers was throwing, Claussen cruised, too. The lefty matched Myers' brilliance, and allowed only Shane Victorino to reach second base (he doubled) through 7 2/3 innings.

Then there was Howard. Claussen called the eighth-inning pitch a "mistake."

Howard called it a homer.

"I just wanted to see how the at-bat was going to pan out," said Howard. "He threw me a couple of fastballs and got ahead, and left a breaking ball over the plate."

Reliever Chris Hammond started the 12th and served up Howard's second homer. Phillies closer Tom Gordon saved his 13th game with a scoreless inning. Geoff Geary, who returned from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, got the win.

"I don't know what it is about winning," said Gordon. "You're more relaxed, and not trying to do too much. Ryan came off the bench and got us going. That was definitely big."

Also big were the four scoreless innings by the Phillies bullpen in relief of Myers, especially the eighth, when Rheal Cormier escaped a self-induced, two-on, one-out jam.

Cormier got Ken Griffey Jr., who entered the at-bat 7-for-11 in his career against him, to fly to right. Chris Roberson tracked it down and nearly doubled up Edwin Encarnacion, but Howard couldn't hold on to the throw.

Griffey's shot to the warning track came using a pink bat, specially issued for Mother's Day, and Cormier joked that it helped.

"If he was using his normal bat, that was gone," Cormier said with a laugh.

The Phillies' 12-1 May has brought them within a game of the first-place Mets, who lost on Sunday, and erased the pain of their 10-14 April.

"We're playing good as a team right now," said Myers. "We're hitting good and pitching well. Everybody is comfortable. We know we have a job to do. Teammates have to pick each other up. That's the only way we're going to win."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.