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PHI@HOU: Mayberry tallies three hits, drives in three

HOUSTON -- A four-run first inning, led by Jimmy Rollins' 42nd career leadoff homer, gave the Phillies a solid lead over the Astros for the second straight night.

Unlike Thursday, though, the Phillies scored plenty of runs after that and rode a solid performance from Cole Hamels to a 12-6 victory at Minute Maid Park.

The Phillies are 16-5 since Aug. 23 and haven't lost consecutive games since Aug. 30.

"Especially after last night, you want to get things rolling again and get the positive mojo going so we can get back into how we know we've been playing baseball for the last week," Hamels said.

On Thursday, the Astros came back from a 4-0 deficit to win, 6-4. On Friday, the Phillies held onto the 4-0 lead by scoring a lot more runs.

John Mayberry and Ryan Howard led the charge, going a combined 5-for-9 with six RBIs and two runs scored. The Phillies plated multiple runs in four innings.

Rollins downplayed the significance of his first-inning homer off starter Edgar Gonzalez.

"Even better, we didn't stop there," Rollins said.

The next three batters in the first inning, Juan Pierre, Chase Utley and Howard, all scored. Hamels said Rollins' homer definitely boosted the team.

"That's something that Jimmy's done a lot in his career, and when he's able to do that, it really kind of puts the edge into our favor and really gets guys fired up to go out and perform at the highest level," Hamels said. "With what we have at stake going on right now, that's what we need."

The Astros got a run back in their half of the first behind Jose Altuve's single, Brett Wallace's single and a two-base throwing error by Rollins.

Mayberry doubled with one out in the fourth and scored on Kevin Frandsen's single to give the Phillies a 5-1 lead. Matt Downs' two-run homer in the fourth brought the Astros within two, but the Phillies rallied against reliever Chuckie Fick to plate two more runs in the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, Justin Maxwell hit a solo homer off the left-field foul pole to make the score 7-4.

Domonic Brown homered to right field off reliever Jose Valdez to score Carlos Ruiz and give the Phillies a 9-4 lead. It was Brown's second homer in five games. In the eighth, the Phillies added three runs behind Utley's RBI double and Howard's two-run single.

From there, the Phillies cruised to victory, something they haven't been able to do recently. Their last win by more than four runs came on Aug. 20 against the Reds.

"We don't have too many where we can kind of relax," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Rollins said a relatively easy victory helps take away the stress of the later innings, but that doesn't mean the Phillies will let up.

"You never expect anything to be easy," Rollins said. "You do that, you come off the gas, a team will come off and clip you in the end. I don't think as players you really worry about being in a tight game or a loose game, as long as you end up on the winning side."

A couple benefits of a somewhat-lopsided victory: Manuel didn't need to use relievers who've pitched quite frequently over the last week. He also was able to get first baseman Darin Ruf in the game for a ninth-inning plate appearance, his first in the Majors.

Hamels went seven innings, allowing seven hits and four runs (three earned). He struck out eight and walked one with 95 pitches, his lowest pitch count since April 20.

"They put up the runs and it's my job obviously to go out and prevent the runs," Hamels said. "So anything I can do, sometimes you're going to give up runs, you make good pitches, give up some runs."

It wasn't Hamels' sharpest performance of the season.

"I've seen him better," Manuel said. "He threw a lot of soft stuff down. I think that's because they've got a young team and he's trying to get them chasing balls. Later on, about the third inning, he started using his fastball more and I think it kind of helped him. He pitched fine."

The Astros were pleased with their performance against the left-hander whose ERA in his seven starts before Friday was 2.26.

"If you get four runs off Cole Hamels, it's a big night offensively," Astros right fielder Downs said. "It's always tough to put runs up against a guy like that or Cliff Lee and Doc Halladay. They swung the bats extremely well tonight and you take your hat off to them."

Hamels said the team just wants to keep playing good baseball as it tries to make moves in the National League Wild Card race.

"If you're able to keep it going, we're going to make it exciting, which we have the last two weeks," Hamels said.

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