Phils win first series since June 10-12

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Ramon Martinez had a flight to Puerto Rico to catch. First, he had to end the game and give himself a shot to get to the airport on time.

Ryan Howard hit a tying two-run homer in the eighth inning and Martinez's pinch-hit single drove in the winning run in the 12th to lift the Philadelphia Phillies past the Washington Nationals 5-4 on Sunday.

"I felt good about sending [Martinez] up because he makes contact," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

There was little time to celebrate, though. Martinez was out of his cleats before he got to the locker room and left for the airport within minutes of the game's end.

David Bell hit a one-out single to center off Sun-Woo Kim (1-2) in the 12th and went to third on Todd Pratt's single. Jason Michaels flew out and Jimmy Rollins was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Martinez, who had only nine at-bats for the Phillies since he was acquired June 8 from Detroit, chopped a grounder into left to end the game that lasted 4 hours, 1 minute.

That made a winner of Rheal Cormier (3-2), who gave up two hits in two innings.

Kim allowed four hits in 2 2/3 innings.

The Phillies won their first series since they swept a three-game set from Milwaukee on June 10-12. They also won consecutive games for the first time since June 16-17. The Phillies beat the Nationals 1-0 on Saturday on Bell's sacrifice fly in the ninth.

"Those two wins the last two days have been good for us," Manuel said. "We hung in there and really got the job done."

The Nationals lost for the fifth time in seven games but still enter the All-Star break 52-36 and in first place in the NL East.

Washington had its chances against Philadelphia's bullpen in extra innings, but the Nationals stranded two runners in both the 10th and 12th innings. The Nationals left 12 runners on base; the Phillies stranded 16.

"Those are the types of games we've been putting in the win column," Washington manager Frank Robinson said.

The Nationals couldn't this time because their bullpen failed.

The Phillies trailed 4-2 in the eighth when reliever Gary Majewski gave up a one-out walk to Chase Utley. Howard followed with his third homer of the year, clearing the 401-foot sign in center with a shot that landed in the shrubs.

"I just wanted to hit it hard and see if it got over his head," Howard said.

Howard could have tied the game in the ninth in Friday's one-run loss, but his deep drive was caught against the same 401-foot sign in center. Still, he has two homers and nine RBI in his last four games subbing at first for the injured Jim Thome.

"I'm just trying to do my part and get something going," Howard said.

Washington's Esteban Loaiza was steady but hardly exceptional in his six innings, striking out six and walking five. The Nationals led 3-0 following Jose Guillen's 18th homer in the fourth, a two-run shot to left.

Loaiza ran into his only jam in the fifth, loading the bases with one out. One run scored on a wild pitch, but the right-hander struck out Pat Burrell and Utley to end the threat.

Washington made it 4-2 when Ryan Madson's wild pitch in the seventh scored Jamey Carroll, who had singled.

Jon Lieber's monthlong swoon continued for Philadelphia. The Phillies starter allowed seven hits, struck out six and hasn't won since beating Texas on June 7.

He had a no-decision in his last start at Pittsburgh after getting hit in the elbow on a line drive that forced him out in the first inning.

What a difference it's been for last year's Montreal Expos, who were 31-56 and 15 games out of first place at the 2004 All-Star break. With spirited crowd support that's contributed to the best home record in the National League (30-13), the Nationals have been one of baseball's biggest surprises of the first half.

Last season's Expos lost 95 games and finished 29 back in the standings. This year's team is aiming to show the first half was no fluke.

Leading the division at the break is no guarantee of a successful season, of course. Just ask the Phillies, who led the NL East at the break last year and then finished 10 games behind Atlanta.

"We haven't won anything yet," center fielder Marlon Byrd
said. "There's a long way to go."

Game notes
Guillen seemed to hurt his left ankle or foot during a hard swing in the sixth inning. After a brief delay, Guillen finally strapped a shin guard to his lower leg. Then Robinson and Manuel started shouting at each other across the field, with Manuel
coming out of the dugout to argue with the home plate umpire. After all the commotion, Guillen struck out looking on the next pitch. ... Nationals catcher Brian Schneider left the game after complaining of dizziness.