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Howard's slam like a blast from past

PHOENIX - It wasn't 1988; it was last night. It wasn't Game 1 of the World Series; it was Game 3 of a May series, in which the Arizona Diamondbacks led the Phillies, two games to none.

PHOENIX - It wasn't 1988; it was last night.

It wasn't Game 1 of the World Series; it was Game 3 of a May series, in which the Arizona Diamondbacks led the Phillies, two games to none.

It wasn't Dennis Eckersley on the mound; it was Brandon Medders. It wasn't a full count; it was the first pitch. There wasn't one runner on, at second base, with two out in the bottom of the ninth; the bases were loaded with nobody out in the top of the seventh.

No, Ryan Howard wasn't Kirk Gibson . . . but, for a moment, he channeled him.

Howard's pinch-hit, grand-slam homer probably saved the Phillies from a sweep.

It turned a three-run deficit into a one-run lead. It shifted the momentum irreversibly: The Phils tacked on two more in the eighth and three in the ninth for a 9-3 final, their fourth win in a tumultuous, 10-game road trip.

The eighth and ninth seemed like footnotes.

"You know you have to throw away to get him out," said a rueful Medders. "He jumped on a first-pitch fastball that was in too far and got it out."

"It felt great," said Howard.

Howard hasn't been feeling very good at all.

Like Gibson, he had been suffering from leg issues. Howard aggravated a nagging left thigh strain Friday in San Francisco that cost him all of his starts this series. He also had lingering stiffness from a knee sprain suffered April 18 that also cost him three starts.

Both times he sat, he joked that he might come off the bench and produce a "Kirk Gibson moment."

Last night, Howard resisted the urge to copy one of baseball's most famous celebrations.

"There were no fist-pumps, or anything like that," Howard said.

No one would have blamed him. At least partly due to the injuries, Howard was hitting .198 with five homers. He was 2-for-May, his only hits in 19 at-bats home runs.

"It was big for everybody, but it's probably biggest for Ryan," said Jamie Moyer, 44, after outdueling Randy Johnson, 43, who comprised the oldest pairing of lefthanded starters in baseball history. "It doesn't just lift his spirits. It lifts the club's spirits, too."

Randy Johnson had buoyed the D-backs to that point.

Staked to the lead thanks in part to solo homers from Orlando Hudson and Eric Byrnes, John-son simply tired in the seventh.

After Aaron Rowand's leadoff single, Johnson hit Chase Utley and walked Pat Burrell on a 3-2 pitch. Johnson had struck out Burrell twice, including the fifth of six straight strikeouts to open the game.

"You felt like you were going up there and didn't have a bat," said Shane Victorino.

Johnson finished with nine Ks, the most he's had since June 26, when he struck out as many Braves for the Yankees in New York. His walk to Burrell put a Phillie on third base for the first time - an at-bat that Burrell, 2-for-28 on the trip, was especially proud of.

"I was having a lot of trouble seeing his slider," Burrell said. "That [walk] was huge for our team."

D-backs manager Bob Melvin didn't second-guess his strategy of taking out Johnson. In fact, he said, letting him face Burrell might have been the mistake.

Johnson exited with a season-high 101 pitches in his fourth start, his season delayed by offseason back surgery.

Wes Helms, a righthanded hitter starting in place of Howard at first base, was due up. He had one of the four hits off Johnson.

Medders, a righty, entered. So did Howard.

It was Howard's fourth pinch-hit homer. It was his fourth grand slam. It was his first pinch-hit grand slam.

"You can't count on the pinch-hit grand slam," Burrell said. "We needed something like that to happen for us."

Moyer (4-2) managed a scoreless seventh before giving way to new closer Brett Myers.

Myers entered with a three-run lead that grew, but he still was credited with a two-inning save - and he was filthy. He hit 95 mph with a fastball that froze Chris Jackson for the second out of the ninth, which was set up by the ridiculous curveball that froze Byrnes for the first out of the ninth.

It was Myers' third save in as many chances since he was moved from the front of the rotation to the back of the bullpen April 18.

He has been a tad more productive than Howard, who might return to the lineup tomorrow after the off day today. He remained in the game, played the field and even jogged to first in the eighth when he hit a doubleplay ball.

"It felt all right. I wasn't trying to push it," Howard said. "Another day of rest, then we'll try running on it."

Yesterday wasn't a test; not in the seventh:

"Jogging," he said, "it's OK." *