Another Split

“MVP”, “MVP”, “MVP”

That chorus rang throughout Citizens Bank Park in Sunday’s first game as Ryan Howard put on another historic home run show.

The big first baseman homered in each of his first three at-bats, drew standing ovations, curtain calls and the “MVP” chant.  Historic?  The first one to deep center was Howard’s 50th, a number ever reached before by a Phillies player.

For you clock watchers, they came at 2:00 p.m., 2:26 p.m. (into Braves bullpen) and 3:05 p.m. (left field seats).  He batted again at 3:50 p.m. to a standing ovation and singled to center.

The joy and emotional high for the crowd took a sharp decline when, for the second straight day, the Braves, Matt Diaz this time, hit a home run.  His three-run blast put Atlanta on top, 6-5, in the top of the ninth.

Resilient is a definite characteristic of this Phillies bunch and they came back to win in their last at-bat.  Shane Victorino took the heroes role with his game-winning single. 

Atlanta won the nightcap in 11 innings, pinning a loss on Geoff Geary who was the winner in the first game.

Now that Ernesto and the Braves have left town, the race continues against the Astros, a ballclub that has won 12 in a row against the Phillies.  Houston has been in the post-season each of the last two seasons, mainly because of their dominance over the Phillies.

Tomorrow is Labor Day, the last holiday of the summer.  The 3:05 p.m. pitching match-up has 44-year-old Roger Clements facing 22-year-old Cole Hamels.  Both are No. 1 picks in the annual draft, Clemens the 19th overall selection in 1983, Hamels, the 17th overall selection in 2002.

Hamels was barely five months old when Clemens won his first big league game in 1984.

Clemens carries a 4-0 August record and a 1.93 ERA on the road this season. 

Facing Clemens certainly isn’t a holiday.

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