CINCINNATI- Ryan Howard returned from a few days off looking healthy and ready to break out of his April slump.
The NL MVP homered in his first game back from an injury to help Freddy Garcia earn his first National League victory, and the Phillies beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-3 on Sunday.
Howard, who missed the last three games with a sprained ligament just below his left knee, hit a sacrifice fly, drew a walk, struck out and flied out to center field before hitting his second homer of the season, a 410-foot, two-run shot to center in the ninth.
“I felt good,” the first baseman said. “I hit in the cage the last couple of days but the real test was getting out on the field for nine innings. Hitting the ball to center field is where you want to be.”
Howard hit 58 homers last season, but has struggled along with the Phillies in the early going.
“It was good to see Ryan pop one out,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “The fly ball to center field says he's about ready to break loose. I have a feeling he'll hit a few more.”
Chase Utley had a pair of doubles and Wes Helms had three hits for the Phillies, who have won three of four and back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“Two in a row,” Manuel said. “Imagine that. It was a long time coming. I think Garcia pitched pretty good. He knows how to pitch. He pops the fastball pretty good.”
Garcia (1-1), who was acquired from the White Sox for two players in December, went five innings in his second start since opening the season on the disabled list with tendinitis. He didn't walk a batter and allowed four hits and two runs with three strikeouts.
“I'm making progress,” the right-hander said. “We're winning. I got behind in the count too much. I need to pitch better than that when we have the lead. I need to trust my fastball.”
Brett Myers, moved from the rotation to the bullpen by the Phillies earlier this week, pitched the ninth and allowed an RBI double by Ken Griffey Jr.
Philadelphia's pitching limited Cincinnati to six runs and 15 hits in the three-game series, including Cincinnati's 2-1 10-inning win on Friday. The Reds (9-10) have lost four of five and fell below .500 for the first time this season.