PHILADELPHIA -- For one night, the long bus rides and the years spent toiling in the minor leagues were worth it for Chris Michalak.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a go-ahead RBI single in the ninth inning against All-Star closer Tom Gordon, and Michalak pitched 6 2/3 solid innings in relief to lead the Cincinnati Reds over the Philadelphia Phillies 9-7 Saturday night.
Ryan Freel drove in three runs and Cincinnati's struggling bullpen held on this time, helping Michalak earn his first win in the major leagues since 2001.
"It was awesome to be in a playoff atmosphere," said Michalak, who learned at midnight Friday that he was coming up from Triple-A Louisville. "It makes all the years in the minors and all the hard work worthwhile."
Ryan Howard's NL-leading 40th homer tied it at 6 in the eighth inning, but the Reds went ahead against Gordon, who blew his fourth save in 31 chances in the ninth inning Friday night.
Michalak (1-0) gave up one run and three hits in his first outing in the big leagues since 2002 with Texas. Eddie Guardado allowed Jimmy Rollins' second homer of the game in the ninth, but held on for his eighth save in nine chances after blowing a lead in the ninth a night earlier.
"We're very resilient. There's a lot of heart and character here," Reds manager Jerry Narron said.
The NL wild card-leading Reds came in a half-game ahead of Arizona and San Diego. The Phillies fell three games behind Cincinnati.
Freel walked to start the ninth against Gordon (3-4). He stole second and went to third on Scott Hatteberg's single up the middle. Ken Griffey Jr. then hit a hard one-hopper to drawn-in second baseman Utley, who only got Griffey at first base after making the play.
"I just didn't have the feel that I'd like to have," Gordon said.
Rollins also hit a three-run homer and David Dellucci had a two-run shot for Philadelphia, which failed to get within a game of .500 for the first time since June 20.
Michalak, called up earlier in the day after Kent Mercker went on the disabled list, gave the Reds bullpen a much-needed lift a night after Narron used all his relievers -- except Rheal Cormier -- and two starters.
Elizardo Ramirez, who got the loss Friday, lasted just 1 1/3 innings. He allowed five runs and five hits, before giving way to Michalak.
The 35-year-old left-hander allowed just two infield singles before Howard led off the bottom of the eighth with a drive off a huge billboard in front of the second deck in right field.
"He changed speeds tremendously, gave them a lot of different angles," Narron said. "He's definitely a crafty left-hander."
Phillips had three hits, including a homer against Phillies starter Scott Mathieson. Phillips snapped a 1-for-22 slump with a solo shot leading off the fourth that tied it at 5. Royce Clayton followed with a double and scored on Freel's one-out double that gave the Reds a 6-5 lead.
After the Reds scored four runs with two outs in the second inning to take a 4-2 lead, the Phillies went ahead 5-4 on Rollins' three-run shot in the bottom half.
Ramirez ignited Cincinnati's four-run rally in the second by beating out a grounder to third base with the bases loaded. Freel followed with a two-run single to left and Hatteberg singled in another run.
"Chris did an unbelievable job," Freel said. "He kept them off balance and we got some timely hits."
Dellucci's two-run homer to straightaway center field gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Griffey climbed the wall and reached over to make the grab, but the ball was just out of his reach.
Mathieson allowed six runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings. The rookie right-hander hasn't made it past the fourth inning in three of his six starts.
- Howard became the sixth player in team history to reach 40 homers in a season.
- Rollins joined Steve Jeltz and Tomas Perez as the only players in franchise history to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game. Rollins has 17 homers. His previous high was 14 in 2001 and 2004.
- Dellucci has 10 homers in 173 at-bats. Bobby Abreu had eight homers in 339 at-bats before he was traded to the Yankees, giving Dellucci an opportunity for more playing time.
- Michalak was 9-5 with a 2.99 ERA at Louisville.
- Griffey was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and left five runners in scoring position.