PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Phillies had a plan: get a lead and trust their pitcher.
Ryan Howard and Aaron Harang made sure it worked.
Harang scattered five hits over eight scoreless innings and Howard hit his team-high seventh home run, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.
“We just tried to get to them early,” Howard said, “and we were able to get ahead and let Aaron do his thing.”
Howard had three hits to snap an 0-for-9 skid as the Phillies won their second straight to match their longest winning streak of the season and salvage a split in the four-game series.
The Pirates avoided a shutout when Starling Marte doubled to deep center field off Ken Giles with one out in the ninth, scoring Josh Harrison.
Jonathan Papelbon, who became the Phillies’ career franchise saves leader Wednesday night, recorded the final two outs for his eighth save in eight chances this season. Marte scored on Pedro Alvarez’s groundout to first.
“We had a chance to win the series but were not able to do it,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We didn’t handle the ball as well as we should have. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Harang (4-3) settled into a groove after escaping trouble in the first inning, when he needed 27 pitches and left two runners in scoring position.
The 37-year-old right-hander walked one while striking out six, and he was helped by the Phillies’ season-high three double plays.
“He just hits his spots,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “He makes the pitch that he wants to make and it seems like when he misfires a little bit, it’s not over the plate to get hit, so he stays away from trouble with that.”
Harang has a 0.61 ERA (2 earned runs, 29 1-3 innings) over his first four starts at home this season, the lowest of any qualified starter in the National League.
“I’m out there, I’m having fun,” Harang said. “I know what I can do. I know my limitations. But I know how to control myself when I get in tough situations and try to stay positive.”
Vance Worley (2-3) lasted just four innings in his second career start against the team that drafted him. He allowed three runs - one earned - and eight hits and a walk. Worley has not struck out a batter in his last two starts.
“I wasn’t around the zone, not locating well at all,” Worley said. “It’s all about execution. Mechanically I was a little off, just a little out of sync.”
Pittsburgh’s trouble began from the start, when second baseman Neil Walker failed to catch a sharp groundball by Ben Revere, allowing the Phillies’ leadoff hitter to reach on a fielding error. Freddy Galvis and Howard both singled to right to load the bases with one out.
Worley then issued a bases-loaded walk to Cesar Hernandez and Grady Sizemore drove in another run with a single to center field for a 2-0 lead. But Odubel Herrera grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Pittsburgh had allowed just four first-inning runs in its previous 34 games combined, by far the fewest in the majors this season.
After a pitching change to begin the bottom of the fifth, Howard belted the first pitch from Radhames Liz into the seats in right field.
Jung Ho Kang was hit by a pitch from Harang to begin the fifth inning. He was also hit by a pitch from Papelbon in the ninth. Pirates batters have been hit by a pitch in four consecutive games and a major league-leading 100 times since the start of last season.
Pirates: Outfielder Andrew McCutchen and catcher Francisco Cervelli both received a day of rest. Marte took over in center field and Harrison played left. Chris Stewart was behind the plate. McCutchen popped out to first as a pinch hitter to end the game. . RHP Charlie Morton (right hip surgery) was scheduled to make a rehab start Thursday night for Triple-A Indianapolis against Norfolk. In his first rehab start with Double-A Altoona on May 8 against Harrisburg, he allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings while throwing 84 pitches, 58 of them strikes. He’s been on the disabled list since April 5.
Phillies: Veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz was given the day off following a night game. He’s batting just .239. Cameron Rupp filled in behind the plate and went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. He’s also thrown out 7 of 13 attempted base stealers this season, including both Pirates attempts Thursday.
“He just has a real quick release,” Sandberg said, “but he has a cannon of an arm and he’s usually on target. That was impressive today, with keeping a couple of runners off second base.”
Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (2-2, 4.71 ERA) gets the start for an afternoon game at the Chicago Cubs. He’s lost each of his last two decisions.
Phillies: A 10-game homestand continues as RHP Chad Billingsley (0-2, 9.00 ERA) takes the mound Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. His last victory was April 10, 2013, when he tossed six innings of one-run ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Diego Padres. The 30-year-old former All-Star spent last season on the DL after Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He has yielded five earned runs in five innings in each of his two starts for the Phillies.
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