Howard hit a go-ahead homer with two outs in the ninth inning and the Phillies rallied to beat the New York Mets 3-2 on Wednesday night, adding a dramatic victory to their late-season playoff push.
"He was kind of due," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He needed a big hit like that, and he came through."
Jimmy Rollins hit a leadoff home run but the Phillies went into the ninth with only two hits. Chase Utley worked a two-out walk on a full-count pitch from rookie Josh Edgin (1-2), filling in for ailing Mets closer Frank Francisco, and Howard launched a 93 mph fastball off the facing of the second deck in right field to give his team a 3-2 lead.
"It meant something to us, and it also meant something to him. I'm sure that will give him a big boost," Manuel said.
Trying for a last-gasp postseason charge after a miserable first half, the surging Phillies (75-74) won for the 10th time in 13 games. They remained four games behind St. Louis for the second NL wild-card spot, with two other teams in between.
"To be here is a testament to the character of this team -- that we don't give up," Howard said. "It's a 162-game season and we're just going out here trying to play it all out."
The big slugger pumped his fist as he rounded first base and Phillies players broke into a happy frenzy on the bench. It was Howard's 11th homer in an injury-shortened season and first since Aug. 31.
Edgin had not allowed an earned run since Aug. 19, putting together 16 straight scoreless appearances.
"That's the Howard that we've grown accustomed to," Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels said.
Hamels equaled a season high with 10 strikeouts over six innings and left trailing 2-1. Philadelphia's young bullpen kept it close, and Jeremy Horst (2-0) got Andres Torres to ground into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the eighth.
The punchless Mets wasted a splendid outing from Matt Harvey, who finished his rookie season with a flourish. David Wright hit a solo homer but the Mets (66-82) dropped their eighth straight home game and 24th in the last 28 at Citi Field.
This one guaranteed them a fourth consecutive losing season, despite a 46-40 first half.
New York has lost four in a row and 10 of 11 overall. The Mets have managed three runs or fewer in a team-record 15 straight home games since a 6-5 win over Atlanta on Aug. 12 at Citi Field.
Harvey struck out seven and did not allow a hit after Rollins' homer in the latest eye-catching performance of his promising campaign. This was the last one, too. The prized right-hander, drafted seventh overall in 2010, will be shut down after 10 major league starts to protect his 24-year-old arm.
Harvey finished 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 59 1/3 big league innings. He permitted only 42 hits and 26 walks.
"With this being his last start, I wish we would have got a win for him," manager Terry Collins said. "But Matt Harvey ought to spend the winter feeling pretty good about himself and the way he's handled everything up here, the way he's pitched."
A bright spot in an otherwise dismal second half for New York, Harvey walked three and threw a career-high 112 pitches over seven stellar innings. He has thrown 169 1/3 innings this season between the Mets and Triple-A Buffalo.
Harvey got two double plays and whiffed Howard for the second time with a 97 mph fastball in the seventh. He walked off to a standing ovation from the sparse crowd of 21,741 and received a handshake from veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach.
"There was definitely some excitement. I had some tingles. It was kind of a sad moment, I guess, because I knew I was done," Harvey said. "It was a good experience. ... I left it all out there."
Bobby Parnell struck out two in a one-hit eighth and handed the lead to Edgin, seeking his first career save. Francisco was unavailable after an MRI showed tendinitis in his pitching elbow.
One night after the teams were rained out at Citi Field, Rollins gave the Phillies another quick start when he homered to right on Harvey's fifth pitch. It was his 43rd career leadoff shot and sixth this season.
Rollins, who homered and scored twice in Monday night's 3-1 victory over the Mets, has 22 home runs this season and seven this month -- five in the past eight games.
Wright opened the sixth with an opposite-field drive to right-center for his 201st career homer and 18th this year. After a sensational start to the season, he has only two home runs and 12 RBIs since July 28.
The next batter was Scott Hairston and he was hit in the back by Hamels' second pitch.
Francisco is day to day. ... The previous major league club to score three runs or fewer in more consecutive home games was Seattle, which went 16 straight in 2010. ... Philadelphia improved to 3-59 when trailing after eight innings. ... Rollins has 26 homers against the Mets, his most against any team. ... RHP Tyler Cloyd (1-1), who lost to Harvey in his major league debut on Aug. 29, is scheduled to start Thursday night's makeup game for Philadelphia. Fellow rookie Jeremy Hefner (2-6) pitches for the Mets.