CHICAGO -- The Philadelphia Phillies may have benefited from an instant replay in the seventh inning. Too bad the rule only is in effect for home run calls.
Since the new system put in place this week deals only with boundary calls on home runs, there was no way to review the pivotal play. TV replays showed that Howard beat the throw to the bag with two outs in a tie game in the seventh inning and Jimmy Rollins at third.
But Howard was called out, the game remained tied and Alfonso Soriano homered in the bottom half for the surging Cubs.
"I was pretty sure I was safe. ... It's definitely frustrating. It changes the outcome of the game," Howard said. "It changes the momentum. Instead of being down 3-2, they get out of the inning, Soriano comes up and hits a home run, now they're up 3-2."
Howard was not advocating that replay should be expanded.
"I don't really want to get into that stuff as far as taking instant replay to every aspect of the game," Howard said. `But the safe or out calls are definitely important. Today, the one that we're focused on right now, it changed the outcome of the game."
Soriano's first homer in 15 days and 23rd of the season came off Clay Condrey (3-4). Chicago made the most of four hits and improved its record to a major league-best 85-50, including 51-19 at Wrigley Field.
"We're playing good because we feel very confident at home and everybody is healthy," Soriano said.
Philadelphia had put runners at the corners with two outs in the top of the seventh before Howard's hard grounder went off Derrek Lee. The first baseman retrieved the ball, tossed to pitcher Jeff Samardzija and first base umpire Chris Guccione called Howard out. In the ensuing argument from Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and third base coach Steve Smith, Smith was ejected by plate umpire Bill Welke.
"As long as you get it right, I don't want to get into the replay thing," Manuel said. "The guy called him out and the ump wasn't going to change it."
Samardzija (1-0), a former Notre Dame receiver, got his first major league win. Carlos Marmol struck out two with two on in the eighth and pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save in nine chances.
"I don't know. It happened so fast," Samardzija said of the play at first. "I didn't really feel him hit the bag. I just wanted to go over there and get the ball. And you know (Guccione) called him out, so he's out."
Lee wasn't sure.
"The ball kicked away from me. I was able to get it," Lee said. "A bang-bang play and I don't know. I didn't see a replay yet, but I heard it was pretty close."
Philadelphia, which lost its third in a row, dropped two games behing the New York Mets in the NL East.
Matched against former Oakland teammate Rich Harden, Phillies starter Joe Blanton held the Cubs hitless until Aramis Ramirez hit a two-out single in the fourth. With a 2-0 lead, he ran into trouble the following inning when Mark DeRosa walked, stole second and moved to third on Henry Blanco's infield single to third.
Pinch-hitter Daryle Ward hit a perfect double play grounder to second with one out, but after taking Chase Utley's toss for the forceout, shortstop Rollins sailed a throw over Howard at first and DeRosa scored.
Harden and Blanton were traded within nine days of one another in July and had chatted with each other behind the batting cage on Thursday.
Harden allowed two runs, three hits and four walks in five innings. In his first appearance against the Cubs, Blanton gave up two runs and two hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Pat Burrell hit an RBI single in the first, and the Phillies made it 2-0 in the fifth. Utley singled and raced to third when Howard singled to right, then scored when Fukudome's throw to first apparently hit Howard for an error, and the ball got away from Lee.
- The Phillies were held without an extra-base hit for the first time in 61 games since June 18. The Cubs managed only four hits but drew seven walks.