Now that the Phillies are likely going to spend this season’s final two months playing the spoiler role, Howard and Hamels seem willing to attempt to damage the Braves’ postseason hopes.
Howard’s two-run home run highlighted a three-run first inning that gave Hamels more than enough support as he notched his fifth career shutout and led the Phillies to a 3-0 win over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.
With just their third loss in their past 14 games, the Braves were unable to win an eighth consecutive game against the Phillies.
Their seven-game winning streak against the Phils extended back to July 6, when Howard played his first game after missing the season’s first three months while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.
Coming off a stellar July that turned his season around and last week’s rain-shortened start against the Marlins, Mike Minor surrendered doubles to the first two batters he faced, and then with one out, he allowed Howard to hit his 38th career home run against the Braves.
To his credit, the young left-hander did not allow another run while completing seven innings.
But with Hamels dealing, the Phillies had produced all of the necessary damage.
This was his second career shutout against the Braves. The other was completed on May 15, 2008.
For the first time in his career, Howard entered this game having gone homerless in 11 consecutive games against the Braves.
But it did not take him long to add to Minor’s first-inning woes.
Howard drilled a hanging slider over the left-center-field wall.
The blast was his fifth of his injury-marred season, and it gave the Phillies an early 3-0 lead.
Howard’s homer provided some early comfort for Hamels, who settled into a groove early and limited the Braves to just five singles.
The Phillies have won 15 of the past 23 games that Hamels has started against Atlanta.
The closest the Braves came to putting a runner on second base came in the fifth inning, when Brian McCann made the unwise decision to attempt to stretch a two-out single into a double.
After Chipper Jones singled to begin the second inning, Hamels escaped unscathed by getting McCann to ground into a double play.
The veteran left-hander also got Reed Johnson to ground into a double play after Freddie Freeman opened the eighth inning with a single.
Minor simply picked the wrong night to commit a couple of costly early mistakes.
The 24-year-old left-hander had posted a 1.74 ERA and limited opponents to a .214 on-base percentage in his previous five starts.
Dan Uggla, who is batting just .136 in the last 51 games, wasn’t in the lineup because he’s 8-for-55 against Hamels.
Minor has allowed 23 homers, tied with Joe Blanton for most in the NL.
The Braves were shutout for the sixth time this season.
Atlanta’s Tim Hudson (11-4, 3.45) faces Kyle Kendrick (4-9, 4.45) in the series finale tonight.