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 and have won eight of 10.
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 games.
He has done plenty of damage in St. Louis, 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.
"It's always good to be able to come back home," Howard said. "Playing in front of family and friends, it is a very familiar feeling and it is always good to be back."
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.
"He's been on a roll," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He has played big in the last four wins."
When Howard is hitting like that, it has an impact on the rest of the lineup.
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.
"I wanted to go deep into games and help the team out," Buchanan said.
Sandberg said Buchanan was successful in working both sides of the plate. "He also stayed down in the zone more than he has in his other starts," Sandberg said.
Buchanan said that was the key.
"I have been working on that in my bullpen (sessions)," Buchanan said.
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. The ball sliced inside the left-field foul pole.
"I wasn't sure if the ball was going to stay fair," Howard said. "Off the bat, it was kind of slicing."
Buchanan allowed a two-out RBI single to right by Matt Carpenter in the eighth. Marlon Byrd might have had a play at home, but he bobbled the ball.
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, allowing for another successful homecoming for Howard.
"For me, this is where it all started," Howard said. "It is always a different feel when you come into your hometown."
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