Howard sparks Phillies; Lohse shuts down Braves

Phillies 5, Braves 2

ATLANTA (AP) -- Ryan Howard has no doubts the Philadelphia Phillies can win the NL East.

"Definitely," Howard said. "It's been a crazy year for us. We are hanging with it."

Howard hit his 37th homer, and Kyle Lohse quieted the Atlanta Braves' offense to help the Philadelphia Phillies end a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, made it 2-0 in the first with his 15th career homer off the Braves and sixth at Turner Field.

"We have three tough games to play here," Howard said. "We needed to right the ship and get going back in the right direction."

Chipper Jones hit his 23rd homer for Atlanta, which has lost four of five and 10 of 14.

With the win, the Phillies moved 3˝ games ahead of the Braves in the wild-card race and remained five games behind the New York Mets in the NL East, after the Mets beat the Reds 11-7. Philadelphia began the day three games behind Arizona in the wild-card.

"In August and September, that's when you get that proverbial hump you have to get over," Howard said. "We have to take care of our own business first and then see what happens with everybody else."

Carlos Ruiz, who gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead in the second with his fifth homer, had a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 in the fifth. Aaron Rowand's RBI single in the ninth ended the scoring.

Lohse (8-12) improved to 2-0 with a 4.06 ERA in seven starts since the Phillies acquired him from Cincinnati on July 30. The right-hander, pitching into the seventh inning for the fifth time with Philadelphia, gave up eight hits, two runs and one walk in 6 2/3 innings.

Lohse left after Kelly Johnson singled with two out in the seventh. Manager Charlie Manuel brought in left-hander J.C. Romero to face Chipper Jones, who grounded out.

"It was a big game today," Manuel said. "Tomorrow will be a bigger one. They get bigger, bigger and bigger."

Tom Gordon pitched a perfect eighth for the Phillies. Brett Myers got three outs for his 14th save in 15 chances.

Jones' solo homer cut the lead to 3-1 in the fourth, and he walked with the bases loaded to make it 4-2 with two out in the fifth. Other than that mistake, Lohse held his composure, retiring Willie Harris and Johnson on infield pop-ups and getting Mark Teixeira to ground out.

"This big ballpark here is nice, but Chipper made it look pretty small," Lohse said. "They have a lot of offensive weapons, a lot of left-handers, and that makes it hard on a right-hander like me."

Buddy Carlyle (8-6) lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up four hits, three runs and three walks in the shortest start of his career. The right-hander, who struck out one, has allowed 12 homers in his last 11 starts.

Manager Bobby Cox wouldn't let Carlyle face Howard, who also hit a three-run homer off the right-hander in Atlanta's 5-3 loss at Philadelphia on Aug. 12, a second time.

Cox was more concerned about his team's once-promising offense continue to struggle.

"We really have to start capitalizing with some men on base," Cox said. "We just didn't do it."

Jo-Jo Reyes pitched the next 3 1/3 innings for the Braves, striking out Rowand with the bases loaded in the second but giving up Ruiz's sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 in the fifth.

After Reyes, Atlanta used Royce Ring, Tyler Yates, Ron Mahay and Manny Acosta out of the bullpen.

Game notes
Rowand finished 3-for-5. ... Howard went 1-for-3 with two walks. ... Teixiera, the NL Player of the Month for August, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. ... Philadelphia made three moves before the game, claiming catcher Pete LaForest off waivers from San Diego and recalling RHPs Geoff Geary and John Ennis from Triple-A Richmond. ... The Braves recalled infielder Martin Prado from Triple-A Richmond.