Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson combined to record the final eight outs of the game, including an electric, five-out performance by Bastardo that began when he got Reds star Joey Votto to ground into a doubleplay with one out in the seventh inning.
Bastardo, who entered the day ranked fifth among NL relievers with a 1.48 ERA, struck out the side in the eighth inning before Madson pitched a perfect ninth for his 26th save.
The Phillies appeared to be cruising to another easy victory when the seventh inning started. Rookie righthander Vance Worley had held the Reds to one run and five hits with seven strikeouts in the first six innings, while utility man Michael Martinez hit a two-run home run off Jared Burton in the top of the seventh.
In the sixth inning, Howard hit his 30th homer, a solo shot off righthander Mike Leake. Along with a double by Hunter Pence that led to a run and a couple of runs scored by Wilson Valdez, the Phillies held a 6-1 lead heading into the seventh.
But Worley allowed a leadoff double to Drew Stubbs and a single to Ryan Hanigan before hanging an 0-1 slider that Chris Heisey crushed for a three-run homer that cut the Reds' deficit to two.
Worley, who was charged with four runs in six innings but improved to 10-1 with a 2.85 ERA, left the game for Brad Lidge, who struck out Brandon Phillips before walking Edgar Renteria. That prompted Charlie Manuel to call on Bastardo, who has been the most valuable pitcher in his bullpen all season.
Now it is Sept. 2 and the Phillies already have 87 wins. Last year, they did not earn their 87th win until Sept. 17 in their 148th game. In 2009, it did not come until Sept. 20, also in their 148th game.
The Phillies maintained a 7 1/2-game lead over Atlanta in the NL East, meaning today will be the 35th consecutive game they have entered with a division lead of at least five games, their longest streak since they went 39 straight games from Aug. 19 through Sep. 27 in 2009. Last year, their longest such streak was 11 games, and their biggest lead was seven, which they held for exactly 2 days. As late as Sept. 11 they were tied for first place. In all, they entered 63 of their 162 games with sole possession of first place.
In 2009, their biggest lead was 8 1/2 games. They held a lead of at least eight games for 5 days, a lead of at least seven for 23, and a lead of at least six for 53 days. In 2008 and 2007, they never led by more than four games and spent a combined 75 days in first place.
"We definitely want to win our division, and we definitely want to have the best record, if we can, because all of that means something," Manuel said. "Our league this year gets homefield advantage all the way through to the [World] Series. Our ultimate goal is to win the World Series, and we've got to go through those steps to get there. That's what we want to accomplish."
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