Ryan Howard had Phillies fans on their feet and the tying runs on base.
This time it didn’t work out for the home team.
Kevin Gregg got Howard to ground out with the bases loaded in the eighth and worked a perfect ninth to preserve the Chicago Cubs‘ 10-5 victory, snapping Philadelphia’s longest winning streak in 18 years at 10 games.
“That was the big out of the game,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Gregg’s showdown against Howard.
Aramis Ramirez and Jeff Baker each had a two-run double and Carlos Zambrano (7-4) won his third straight start for the Cubs, who avoided their first three-game sweep in Philadelphia since 1999.
“Hopefully, this will give us a jump start and we’ll get rolling,” Baker said.
The NL East-leading Phillies lost for only the second time in 16 games and fell to .500 at home (24-24), failing to extend their longest winning streak since they won 13 in a row from July 30 to Aug. 12, 1991.
Gregg replaced Angel Guzman with two out in the eighth and runners on first and third. He walked Chase Utley before retiring Howard on a bouncer to first, preserving the Cubs‘ 8-5 lead. Gregg, who has a 1.53 ERA over his last 28 appearances, then closed it out for his 19th save.
Howard is 0 for 8 with five strikeouts for his career against Gregg.
“It’s just one of those things,” Gregg said. “You can’t explain it.”
The Phillies‘ streak was the longest by a defending World Series champion since Baltimore won 11 straight in 1971, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. Philadelphia also had won seven straight at home.
“All good streaks come to an end,” left fielder Gregg Dobbs said. “It just gives us an opportunity to start a new one.”
Coming off his strongest outing of the season, 46-year-old Jamie Moyer (9-7) was tagged for five runs in five innings as his ERA jumped to 5.65.
Moyer has put together a few strong starts in a season filled with erratic performances. The left-hander has allowed five or more runs six times this year. This one led to his first loss to the Cubs, the organization he made his major league debut with in 1986, in four career decisions.
Sean Marshall replaced Zambrano with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh, and promptly surrendered a two-run single to Dobbs that cut Chicago’s lead to 8-5. Guzman then retired Pedro Feliz on a fly ball to left.
Zambrano gave up five runs, four earned, and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings.
“Zambrano pitched well. He had good stuff,” Piniella said.
The Phillies had a chance to get to Zambrano an inning earlier and possibly tie the game. Feliz’s two-run single got Philly within two, but two runners were left on and manager Charlie Manuel was tossed for arguing a third strike foul tip that appeared to hit the dirt, his third ejection of the season.
“It seemed like we couldn’t get the big hit when we really needed hit,” Manuel said. “They kept adding on and we couldn’t catch them.”
Chicago backed Zambrano with a four-run fourth. Alfonso Soriano hit the last of four consecutive singles to open the inning, driving in Derrek Lee to make it 1-0. Baker followed with a double to center, and a mishandled throw by All-Star second baseman Utley allowed another runner to score.
Milton Bradley, back in the lineup after taking a few days off to work on his hitting, had an RBI single in the fifth. Ramirez came up with his big hit in the seventh and Jake Fox added a sacrifice fly that stretched Chicago’s lead to 8-3.
The Cubs scored twice in the ninth against Brad Lidge.
Manuel decided not to start All-Star outfielder Raul Ibanez (.310, 25 home runs, 68 RBIs) in a game that began only hours after the Phillies won in 13 innings. Ibanez grounded out as a pinch hitter in the eighth.
NOTES: Cubs SS Ryan Theriot had a career-high three stolen bases. … The Cubs finished 5-2 on their seven-game road trip. … The Phillies last swept the Cubs in a three-game series July 2-4, 1999 at Veterans Stadium.