ST. LOUIS -- For Ryan Howard, there really is no place like home. Howard, who hails from St. Louis, has destroyed Cardinals pitching throughout his career.
He continued that pattern with a home run and three RBIs Thursday in a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The Phillies (33-38) have won four in a row for the first time since last June 2-6, when they won five consecutive games. They are four games out of first place in the NL East.
Entering Thursday, Howard was hitting .368 (67 for 182) with 17 home runs, 54 RBIs and a 1.179 OPS against the Cardinals in 50 career games.
He has done plenty of damage in Busch Stadium, where before Thursday he was also hitting .368 (35 for 95) with nine home runs, 35 RBIs and a 1.207 OPS in 26 games.
Howard said before the game that playing against the Cardinals, especially in St. Louis, is special.
"This is where it all began for me," Howard said. "There are just a lot of memories, seeing friends and family and stuff like that, and it is always a very good, relaxing feeling to come home."
At home or away, Howard has been relaxed against the Cardinals.
Howard and the Phillies were coming off a three-game sweep in Atlanta, where he batted .385 (5 for 13) with two homers and six RBIs. Before Thursday, he had six home runs and a National League-leading 22 RBIs in his previous 22 games.
When Howard is hitting like that, it has an impact on the rest of the lineup.
"He just showed in three games against good pitching that he can make a big difference in the games, in the way that the game feels and the way it rubs off on everybody around him," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
It must have rubbed off on starter David Buchanan, who came through with his longest start in his sixth outing. Buchanan allowed one run on four hits in 72/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.
Buchanan's previous high was 62/3 innings in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets.
Jimmy Rollins extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a third-inning single.
Howard opened the Phillies' scoring with an RBI single past diving second baseman Kolten Wong in the fourth inning.
Two batters later, Domonic Brown knocked in the second run with a sacrifice fly to right.
In the sixth, Howard hit a two-run home run to left field off starter Shelby Miller, driving in Chase Utley, who had singled.
Buchanan allowed a two-out RBI single to right by Matt Carpenter in the eighth. Marlon Byrd bobbled the ball and might have had a play at home had he fielded it cleanly.
That ended Buchanan's evening. He was replaced by Jake Diekman, who got Jon Jay to fly out to left for the third out.
Jonathan Papelbon earned his 17th save with a scoreless ninth inning.
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