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52 pick-up: Howard hits three home runs vs. Braves

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard homered in his first three
at-bats Sunday against Atlanta's Tim Hudson, raising his major
league-leading total to 52 and setting a record for second-year
players.

Howard's 50th home run was a solo shot off Hudson in the second
inning of Philadelphia's doubleheader opener, and he followed with
a two-run drive in the third. His third homer was an
opposite-field, solo shot to left in the sixth.

Each homer was greeted with a standing ovation and chants of
"M-V-P!" as he rounded the bases.

"That last homer he hit I thought was his most impressive
one," Hudson said. "It was a four-seamer up and away. It was off
the plate away. This is a great park for him, too. It will
definitely bring confidence to him as a hitter."

A fan jumped over the dugout onto the field and bowed at Howard
before his fourth at-bat in the eighth. Howard then singled against
Macay McBride for his second career four-hit game.

The reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Howard became the 23rd
player to hit 50 homers and the second to reach that mark since
2002. He broke Pittsburgh Ralph Kiner's mark for second-year
players, 51 in 1947.

"What can you say? It's unreal," Phillies manager Charlie
Manuel said. "It's a credit to him and his hard work."

The first homer went into the first few rows of the right-field
seats, and Howard came out for a curtain call. Howard became the
first player to reach 50 homers since Atlanta's Andruw Jones hit 51
last year.

The last major leaguers before Jones to reach 50 homers were
Alex Rodriguez, who hit 57 for Texas, and Jim Thome, who hit 52 for
Cleveland, in 2002.

Howard broke Mike Schmidt's single-season franchise record for
homers when he hit his 49th against Washington on Thursday night.

Howard, who leads the majors in homers and RBI, became just the
seventh player in history to hit at least 40 homers in his second
year.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.