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Flying Phillies take over lead in NL wild-card race

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Philadelphia Phillies didn't even need Ryan Howard to do something extraordinary in order to take over the National League wild-card lead. They're that hot.

Carlos Ruiz and Jeff Conine each drove in three runs, Jon Lieber
pitched seven solid innings and Philadelphia beat the Florida
Marlins 8-6 Saturday to continue its playoff push.

The Phillies (81-73) have won nine of 11 and moved a half-game ahead of Los Angeles in the NL wild-card standings after the Dodgers' 9-3 loss to the Diamondbacks later Saturday night.

Jimmy Rollins hit his 23rd homer, Shane Victorino and Chase
Utley each went 4-for-5 and Howard drew two more intentional walks
for 33 on the season.

Howard, who leads the majors with 58 homers, was 1-for-2. He
singled in the third, was intentionally walked with two outs and a
runner on first in the fourth, and struck out with runners at first
and third in the sixth.

Howard was intentionally walked again in the eighth after a
passed ball put runners on second and third with none out. Conine
followed with a two-run double that was misplayed by right fielder
Joe Borchard, giving the Phillies an 8-4 lead.

"Everybody knows they don't want to pitch to Howard, but they
have to face the next guy," said Ruiz, a surprise starter at
catcher instead of Mike Lieberthal or Chris Coste.

Lieber (9-10) allowed two runs and seven hits, striking out six
for his fifth win in six decisions.

Borchard's two-run homer off Ryan Madson in the eighth pulled
Florida to 6-4. But Madson got the final out of the inning and the
Phillies added two insurance runs in the bottom half.

In the ninth inning, Florida's Miguel Olivo hit a leadoff home
run and Hanley Ramirez added a one-out solo shot off Tom Gordon.

The Marlins' playoff hopes are fading following their eighth
loss in 11 games. Florida, which became the first team in history
to achieve a winning record after being 20 games below .500, fell
to 76-79.

"They got the big hits when they needed to and Lieber shut us
down," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said.

The Phillies scored three runs in the first inning against Brian
Moehler (7-10).

Rollins and Victorino hit consecutive singles. Utley followed
with an RBI single to make it 1-0. Howard was hit by a pitch,
drawing a warning for both teams from plate umpire Bob Davidson
because Florida's Miguel Cabrera was plunked in the top of the
first.

After David Dellucci and Pat Burrell popped out, Ruiz slapped a
two-run single to right for a 3-0 lead.

Ruiz made it 4-0 with an RBI double off the wall in left in the
third. Utley and Howard hit consecutive singles to start the
inning. Moehler again retired Dellucci and Burrell, but Ruiz came
through with another key hit.

"He came up with big hits," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel
said about the rookie. "He's getting confidence in himself."

Alfredo Amezaga drove in Florida's first two runs with a
groundout in the fourth and a two-out single in the sixth.

Rollins homered to right-center in the sixth and pinch-hitter
Conine added an RBI single in the inning to make it 6-2.

"That's how you play winning baseball, everybody
contributing," Rollins said.

Moehler allowed four runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Philadelphia is 35-19 since July 29, the day before it traded
outfielder Bobby Abreu to the New York Yankees as part of a
midseason roster purge.

Game notes
Rollins has a career-best 74 RBI. ... Ramirez, a rookie
shortstop, made his 25th error in the third inning. ... The
Phillies are a season-best eight games over .500 and 40-39 at home.
... Victorino and Utley each tied a career high with four hits.