Howard snapped a seventh-inning tie with a pinch-hit double, Cole Hamels earned his first win of the season and the Philadelphia Phillies took advantage of a crucial error to beat New York 5-1 on Sunday and finish a three-game sweep.
Rested by manager Charlie Manuel in the midst of a hitting tear, Howard got his chance anyway and drove a two-run double off the center-field fence to give Philadelphia a 3-1 lead. The big slugger has 23 RBI in his past 13 games against the Mets, including seven in this series.
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"It's not really an off day. You just don't start," Howard said. "Mentally you do things to keep yourself loose."
All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz went 1 for 4 with a double in his return to the Phillies from a 25-game amphetamine suspension. Even on the road, the popular Ruiz was greeted warmly with a chorus of "Choooooch," and one fan held a sign welcoming him back.
Freddy Galvis homered, Chase Utley had an RBI single and Hamels (1-3) overcame six walks, which matched his career high. The left-hander held the Mets to two hits and struck out eight over six innings in his fourth consecutive solid outing.
The 2008 World Series MVP was so frustrated with his command that he screamed into his glove in the fourth, when he walked the bases loaded before striking out pitcher Jonathon Niese to end the inning.
"I was able to get away with it. But it's not the best type of game for me," Hamels said. "I would much rather have liked to go deeper in the ballgame."
Working with his regular batterymate for the first time this season, Hamels helped Philadelphia to its first series sweep since last September -- also at Citi Field. The Phillies have won nine of 10 against the rival Mets since Aug. 30.
New York, which went 3-6 on a homestand against the Nationals, Dodgers and Phillies, has lost a season-high four straight and nine of 12 overall.
Niese (2-2) allowed one earned run in 6 2/3 innings, showing no ill effects from the comebacker that hit him near the right ankle and knocked him out of his previous start Tuesday.
The left-hander was lifted after 117 pitches, and once again Philadelphia immediately jumped all over an awful Mets bullpen that entered the day ranked next-to-last in the majors with a 5.28 ERA.
Hamels was pulled for pinch-hitter Laynce Nix with two outs in the seventh and appeared headed for a no-decision when Nix hit a twisting popup in foul territory. The ball came down near the Phillies dugout, but catcher John Buck was never able to settle under it. He tried to make a basket catch and the ball popped out of his mitt for an error.
"I should have had it," Buck said. "Just missed it."
Nix and Jimmy Rollins followed with sharp singles, chasing Niese. Mets manager Terry Collins called on right-hander Scott Atchison, so Phillies counterpart Manuel brought Howard off the bench.
He tagged a 2-0 pitch and watched it fly at first, thinking it was gone.
"I knew they were going to put Howard in, but Scott Atchison's breaking ball is really difficult to hit, I don't care who it is," Collins said. "His issue is he fell behind and tried to sneak a fastball by him. Didn't get it in, didn't make the pitch."
"We were out of the inning. We didn't make the play," Collins said. "At our level, you give good teams extra outs, they're going to do some damage."
Galvis reached down and golfed a low curveball over the left-field fence in the fifth for his second home run of the season.
"We knew we were kind of due for a series like this, and we'll try to keep it going," Nix said.
- Major League Baseball posted on Twitter that umpire Brian O'Nora left the series opener Friday night because of a serious medical condition. MLB said he doesn't use tobacco products, contrary to several reports.
- Howard, riding a 10-game hitting streak, has 10 RBI in his past five games after driving in six runs over his first 19 games. Despite that, he was rested ahead of the team's off day Monday to give him an extra breather. Kevin Frandsen started at first base and made a nice play to end the first inning.
- Hamels improved to 6-10 in 22 games against the Mets.
- Wright bobbled Ruiz's easy grounder in the first, ending a 77-game errorless streak that was the longest by a Mets third baseman. It also had been the longest active run for any third baseman in the majors. New York finished with a season-high three errors, one by Niese.
- To create roster room for Ruiz, the Phillies designated backup catcher Humberto Quintero for assignment.
- Slumping Phillies CF Ben Revere was out of the lineup for the fourth straight game while resting a sore quadriceps.