Similar to so many games in their careers, the trio of veterans in Howard, Rollins and Chase Utley led the Phillies' offense. It was Rollins who started the rally in the ninth by reaching first base on a walk with two outs. Utley then moved Rollins to third with a sharp single to right field to set up Howard.
"Those guys have done it before," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It was good to see that combination tonight do the job for us."
Rollins scored four of the Phillies' runs, which was a season high for him. Utley went 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
"It's something that you want to continue to try to build on," Howard said of the trio being consistent. "If we can get everybody going at the same time, it'll be a force to be reckoned with."
With the victory, the Phillies (17-18) moved past the Mets (16-19) into fourth place in the National League East. Closer Jonathan Papelbon pitched another scoreless inning, his 14th consecutive, to record his 11th save of the season.
Perhaps the biggest impact Utley had on the game did not come when he swung the bat. He made a split decision in the eighth inning to approach reliever Mike Adams on the mound when it appeared Adams was going to intentionally walk Eric Campbell, who was making his Major League debut, to load the bases.
Utley persuaded Adams to pitch to Campbell, and the righty came back to strike out the rookie.
"In a sense, he probably let his guard down a little bit," Adams said. "After the first one, he's like, 'OK, I'm going to get walked.' He's probably relaxed mentally. I don't know if it did or not, but I'm sure it caught him off guard. I might have to start doing that a little bit more."
After walking Wilmer Flores, Adams got Bobby Abreu, who was with the Phillies in Spring Training, to ground out to end the inning without allowing a run.
"He's always on top of it and he's always looking one step ahead," Adams said of Utley. "For him to come in and say we should go after this guy, it gets your blood flowing and it pumps you up a bit."
In the seventh inning, Utley drove in Rollins with a double deep to center to tie the game at 4 with one out. But a few pitches later, the Phillies had a fundamental breakdown.
Utley took off for third before the pitch was thrown by Scott Rice, and he was thrown out as the Mets had a defensive shift on for Howard, who then followed with a single.
The Mets' best opportunity to build a comfortable lead came in the sixth inning. David Wright was able to place an RBI double just past the diving Marlon Byrd in right field. Juan Lagares scored on the play to tie the game at 3. Campbell then gave the Mets a 4-3 lead on a sacrifice fly to right with the bases loaded, but they left two runners on base when Flores popped out.
The Phillies were able to give Kyle Kendrick -- who hasn't won since Aug. 11 -- a two-run cushion in the first inning. Utley and Domonic Brown drove in runs to snap Mets starter Dillon Gee's scoreless-innings streak at 16.
But Kendrick surrendered the lead just as quickly as the Phillies built it. In the bottom half of the inning, Wright hit a two-run homer to left on an 0-2 changeup that Kendrick left over the plate.
Howard said the Phillies were fortunate to win the last two games late when the Mets were unable to capitalize on their scoring opportunities. Earlier this week against the Blue Jays, the Phillies were not making the game-winning plays. That led Sandberg to call a team meeting, and the Phils have since gone 2-0.
"It's nice to see the whole team bounce back," Sandberg said. "The whole thought was, 'It's a new series to start with.'"
On Thursday, the Blue Jays swept the Phillies. On Sunday, the Phillies will have their chance to do the same to the Mets.