Slugger Ryan Howard became the fastest player to reach 200 career home runs, powering his red hot Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-0 road win against the Florida Marlins on Thursday.
Howard steered a solo shot to right field in the sixth inning off Florida starter Chris Volstad to reach the 200-mark in just 658 games, 48 fewer than previous record-holder Ralph Kiner.
“It’s a nice feat, it’s a nice record to have,” the 29-year-old told reporters. “I’ll take it and run with it. We finished the first half [of the season] the way we wanted. It’s important to get off to a good start the second half.”
Howard’s 23rd home run of the season was one of three long balls for Philadelphia (49-38) as they cruised to their sixth straight win.
Raul Ibanez led the charge with two home runs to support veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer, who allowed just one hit in seven innings.
Moyer (9-6) has thrived against the Marlins throughout his career, winning all eight of his road starts against them and enjoying a 13-2 record overall.
Ibanez, a teammate of Moyer’s with the Seattle Mariners from 2004 to 2006, delivered the goods in just his third game back from a groin injury that sidelined him for nearly a month.
He had a two-run blast in the second inning and a solo shot in the fourth, both off towering 203cm hurler Volstad, who fell to 6-9 after his six-inning effort.
Jorge Cantu had the lone hit for the Marlins (46-45), who lost their third in four games and fell five behind World Series champions Philadelphia in the National League East Division.
“Five games up is five games up, we still have three games to play here,” Moyer said. “Today’s nice to win the first game back and try to recreate some of the momentum that we took into the break.”
The Phillies, who recently acquired veteran pitcher Pedro Martinez, have taken control of the division by winning 10 of their last 11 games and improving their Major League-best road record to 27-15.
ASTROS 3, DODGERS 0
Manny Ramirez was little help for Los Angeles in his first home game since a 50-game doping ban, and neither were any other Dodgers batters as they were shut out by Houston.
Ramirez went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts. He singled to lead off the eighth, but was out on a double play one batter later.
Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez struck out six in as many innings to win his fifth straight start.
CUBS 6, NATIONALS 2
In Washington, Chicago spoiled the debut of the home team’s interim manager Jim Riggleman.
Cubs starter Rich Harden, who had won only one of his previous seven starts, improved to 4-1 on the road, allowing an unearned run, walking none and striking out seven.
The Nationals have lost seven of eight and own the majors’ worst record. Riggleman, who previously managed the Cubs, San Diego and Seattle, replaced the fired Manny Acta on Monday after serving as his bench coach the first half of the season.
Derrek Lee homered and had three hits for the Cubs.
In other NL action it was:
• Brewers 9, Reds 6
• Braves 5, Mets 3
• Rockies 10, Padres 1
AP, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA
The Los Angeles Angels opened a two-game gap atop the American League West division standings with a 6-2 win over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.
Pitcher Ervin Santana ended a three-start losing streak, allowing only three hits in eight innings. He has a 10-1 record against the A’s.