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Howard follows Abreu as Derby champ

Howard follows Abreu as Derby champ

PITTSBURGH -- The City of Brotherly Love is now the City of CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby champions.

The man getting all the credit is Phillies bullpen coach Ramon Henderson, who was back on the mound on Monday night when the Phils' Ryan Howard outslugged David Wright of the Mets to win the 2006 Home Run Derby at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

"All the credit goes to Ramon," Howard said. "He puts the ball right in there and makes it easy to get in a groove."

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Henderson was on the mound last year when Phils outfielder Bobby Abreu won the Home Run Derby in Detroit.

"I'm very tired," Henderson said after Howard took him deep 23 teams over three rounds, including five in the final. "I could use some painkillers and a lot of ice. I threw a lot of pitches."

That was part of the plan, according to Howard. He received some sound advice from Abreu and put it to use on Tuesday night.

"Basically, Bobby told me to act like I was the only one out there -- me and Ramon," Howard said. "Pretend there was nobody else out there and just take my time. The toughest part was not hitting with a batting cage.

"I felt pretty good. You've got the nerves flowing at first, but when you hit the first one out, you start getting locked in."

Wright hit 18 home runs in the first two rounds, including 16 his first time up, but just four in the final.

Howard also went deep on six gold balls, which were put in play when a hitter had one out to go in his round. Each home run on a gold ball meant CENTURY 21 would donate $21,000 to charity.

"Unbelievable," Phillies All-Star second baseman Chase Utley said. "I was so excited for him, because I know how hard he works."

So does that mean Utley will try to keep the Phillies' winning streak going next year?

"No chance," Utley said. "I'm going to let the big guys take care of that."

Howard, who has 28 home runs in the first half of the season, was the last player to hit in the first round and needed eight home runs to advance. He did so with a spectacular finish.

He had two home runs through his first eight outs, then hit two out to right field before making his ninth out with a fly to center.

That left Howard no margin for error, and he smashed four straight balls out of the park, including one measured at 471 feet that splashed into the Allegheny River beyond right-center field.

That pushed Howard into the second round, but he was still in fourth place. He also batted last in the second round and when he came to the plate, Wright had 18, Miguel Cabrera had 15 and David Ortiz had 13.

Howard came through again with a spectacular finish, this time going deep four times in five tries after he had made eight outs. Again, one of those landed in the river on the fly, measured at 461 feet. He finished the second round with 18 home runs.

"I was just trying to put good wood on it," Howard said. "I wasn't trying to hit them in the water, they just wanted to go into the water. I didn't have a problem with that."

Howard needed just five of his 10 outs in the final to surge past Wright. Again, he had a big finish, blasting a home run on each of his last three swings. He didn't even bother looking at the last one as it soared beyond the right-center field fence.

Afterward, Howard got a big hug from his son, Darian.

"He's going to sleep good tonight," Howard said. "I'm going to sleep good, too."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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