Howard hits 57th homer as Phillies sweep Astros

HOUSTON (AP) -- Ryan Howard chose not to dwell on the would-be
home run he lost on a blown call. Instead he went out on Sunday and
hit one that couldn't be disputed.

Howard hit his major league-leading 57th home run and Mike
Lieberthal connected twice as Randy Wolf and the Philadelphia
Phillies kept up their push for a wild-card spot by beating Houston

Jimmy Rollins also homered as Philadelphia prevented the New
York Mets from clinching the NL East. The second-place Phillies,
however, are aiming at the wild card and are one game behind Los
Angeles for that spot.

Howard's solo homer went to left field in the third inning. A
day earlier, Howard hit a drive to left that was ruled a double by
umpire Larry Poncino; replays appeared to show a young fan in the
front row dropping the ball, and Poncino said after the game that
he got the call wrong.

"I wasn't worried today. You can sit there and worry about it
or just go out and play," Howard said. "But I'm glad it went

Howard tied a team record with 29 road home runs in a season.
He's homered in 16 of the 19 parks he's played this year.

Wolf (4-0) won while pitching on three days' rest for the first
time in his career. He won his career-best ninth straight decision,
the first time a Phillies starter has done that since Steve Carlton
in 1980-81.

Wolf said matching a mark of Carlton's was humbling.

"I shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence with Steve
Carlton," Wolf said. "He was an incredible pitcher and he pitched
so many, many years. I think he's got me on more than one level."

But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was impressed with his

"Wolfy did a very good job," Manuel said. "He got us right
where we needed to be. He took us through those first innings."

Tom Gordon worked the ninth for his 31st save in 35 chances,
getting Brad Ausmus on a grounder with two runners on base to end

The Phillies took all three games in Houston for their first
sweep of the Astros since May 2002.

"We're in a lot better position than we were last year and I
think everyone knows what it will take to make it," Howard said of
the team's playoff hopes. "Everyone in the locker room is
confident. This win was huge, especially against a team like
Houston because they've beaten us so many times."

Wolf (4-0) blanked the Astros until Craig Biggio homered to lead
off the sixth. With the sellout crowd chanting "Bi-ggi-o," he was
able to break his 0-for-30 slump.

Wolf gave up another homer, a two-run shot by Aubrey Huff later
in the inning that cut the lead to 5-3, before being replaced.

Houston closed to 6-4 on Lance Berkman's home run in the eighth.

Lieberthal homered in the fourth and hit another in the eighth.

The trouble began early for Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez
(9-10) when Jeff Conine hit a ground-rule RBI double in the first.
Rollins extended Philadelphia's lead to 2-1 when he led off the
third with his 21st home run.

Rodriguez allowed six hits and four runs in five innings for his
fifth straight loss. He has also had four no-decisions in that span
and hasn't won since July 2.

"I felt bad because I really wanted to come out and win this
game," Rodriguez said through a translator. "We know we needed

The Astros have lost six of their last seven and are 6 1/2 games
back in the wild card standings.

"I don't know how to describe how we're playing," Astros
manager Phil Garner said. "We're certainly not playing winning
baseball when you drop three in a row in a series when you need to
when them. But it's not like we're looking to go out and lose

Game notes
The last time the Phillies swept the Astros in Houston was
in May 1995 at the Astrodome. ... Philadelphia is 19-7 in Sunday
games this season.