Jul 032010

July 3rd Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Ryan Howard picked up Philadelphia’s slumping offense by driving in three runs, Jimmy Rollins homered among his three hits and the Phillies shook off a three-game losing streak to rout the Pittsburgh Pirates 12-4 on Saturday night.

Shane Victorino also had three hits, including a triple, and Pittsburgh shortstop Bobby Crosby’s error on a seemingly routine double-play grounder led to a breakout five-run third inning , as many runs as Philadelphia scored in its previous three games.

Kyle Kendrick (5-3) gave up prized rookie Pedro Alvarez’s first career homer and Ryan Church’s solo shot among 10 Pirates hits, but still pitched his first major league complete game. Kendrick is 4-0 in four career starts against Pittsburgh.

The Phillies, currently without injured regulars Chase Utley, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz, had dropped five of seven to fall five games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East, causing manager Charlie Manuel to say his defending NL champions were facing a major test.

But the offense that was quickly becoming a worry without Utley returned against a pitcher that normally confounds the Phillies, left-hander Paul Maholm (5-7), who was 1-0 with a 0.78 ERA in his last three starts against them.

This time, Maholm failed to make it out of the fourth inning for the second time in four starts, giving up eight runs, all but one earned, and 10 hits as batters up and down the lineup gave him problems.

Victorino, rested Friday during a lethargic 2-0 loss, followed Rollins’ leadoff single with a triple to make it 1-0 only two batters into the game , his NL-best eighth triple but only his fifth extra-base hit in 73 at-bats. Howard, previously 2 for 17 with six strikeouts against Maholm, singled in another run.

Rollins walked and Victorino singled to start the third, and the game began getting away from the Pirates , trying for their first four-game winning streak in nearly 11 months , when Crosby bobbled Jayson Werth’s grounder to load the bases.

The Phillies went on to send 11 batters to the plate in the inning against Maholm, with Howard following with a two-run single , delighting the thousands of red-shirted Phillies fans who sometimes drowned out Pirates rooters in their own ballpark. Ben Francisco, the newly recalled Cody Ransom and Dane Sardinha added run-scoring hits.

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