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Sunday, September 3, 2006
52 pick-up: Howard hits three home runs vs. Braves news services

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.