John Amis, Associated Press
Philadelphia's Ryan Howard, left, is tagged out by Atlanta's Brian McCann during the Phillies' victory.

ATLANTA — Ryan Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies are surging again in September.

Howard rallied the Phillies back into first place, hitting a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning for his fourth hit in an 8-7 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.

"He's big in the moment," manager Charlie Manuel said after the Phillies' fifth straight win.

Brad Lidge escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth and Philadelphia moved a half-game in front of the fading New York Mets, who lost 1-0 at Washington. The Phillies also caught the Mets in September to win the division last season.

Howard's homer was his 45th of the year and 38th in September over the last four seasons, the most in the major leagues. Howard said he had no idea why he thrives in the month.

"Maybe it's just the pennant races are heating up," Howard said. "I'm just trying to go out there and do what I can to help my team."

After trailing the Mets by 3 1/2 games going into last Thursday, Philadelphia leads the division for the first time since Aug. 26.

Manuel said he saw the Mets' final score as his team was trying to rally.

"I think we won a big game," Manuel said. "We've got 11 more to play."

NATIONALS 1, METS 0: At Washington, Odalis Perez shut down slumping New York and scored the only run of the game. The Mets lost for the fourth time in five games and dropped one-half game behind Philadelphia in the NL East. A day after John Lannan held the Mets to one hit over seven innings, New York mustered just two in the first seven innings against Perez (7-10).

CUBS 5, BREWERS 4: At Chicago, Chicago handed CC Sabathia his first NL loss and Milwaukee its fifth straight defeat while spoiling interim manager Dale Sveum's debut. Sabathia (9-1), acquired by the Brewers on July 7, had won 12 straight decisions overall, dating to a June 5 loss to Texas when he was still pitching for Cleveland. He gave up four runs and nine hits in seven innings, including Alfonso Soriano's 29th homer in the seventh.

DODGERS 6, PIRATES 2: At Pittsburgh, Derek Lowe allowed five singles over seven innings to remain unbeaten in his career against Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles edged closer to the NL West title. Casey Blake homered and tripled his first two times up after sitting out Monday night with lower back stiffness. Manny Ramirez had three hits for the second successive night, including an RBI double in a four-run second.

MARLINS 5, ASTROS 1: At Miami, Jorge Cantu hit a three-run homer and rookie Chris Volstad allowed one run in eight innings to lead Florida to its sixth straight win. It was the third straight loss for the Astros, who fell three games behind New York in the NL wild-card race.

Howard insisted he waited until after the game to look at other scores.

REDS 4, CARDINALS 2: At Cincinnati, Bronson Arroyo set a season high for wins and Edwin Encarnacion hit a three-run double to lift Cincinnati.

ROCKIES 10, PADRES 3: At Denver, Chris Iannetta hit his first career grand slam and Jeff Baker had a three-run homer for Colorado.

DIAMONDBACKS 2, GIANTS 0: At Phoenix, Dan Haren struck out 12 in his first career shutout and Arizona avoided losing ground in the NL West.

Haren (15-8) allowed four hits in his sixth career complete game and first in two years. His strikeout total matched the career best he set for Oakland against Texas in 2006.

Chris Snyder and Stephen Drew homered for the Diamondbacks, who remained 4 1/2 games behind first-place Los Angeles with 12 games to play.

American League

RAYS 2, RED SOX 1: At St. Petersburg, Fla., Dioner Navarro singled with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning, enabling Tampa Bay to remain in first place in the AL East. Navarro delivered his second game-winner in a week against the defending World Series champions, lifting a fly ball that sailed over the head of center fielder Coco Crisp on a 2-2 pitch from Justin Masterson (6-5). A night after Boston hit six homers to rout Rays ace Scott Kazmir 13-5 and pull within percentage points of the division lead, Tampa Bay wiped out a 1-0 deficit on Carlos Pena's seventh-inning homer off Josh Beckett.

WHITE SOX 6, YANKEES 2: At New York, Gavin Floyd pitched seven innings and Paul Konerko had two hits and an RBI in his return from a knee injury for AL Central-leading Chicago. Alexei Ramirez homered and Juan Uribe had three hits and drove in two runs for Chicago, which moved 2 1/2 games in from of Minnesota.

INDIANS 12, TWINS 9 (11): At Cleveland, Victor Martinez hit a three-run homer with one out in the 11th and Cleveland hurt Minnesota's postseason chances. The Twins, who rallied from an early seven-run deficit, lost their third straight.

ORIOLES 2, BLUE JAYS 0: At Toronto, Chris Waters threw a four-hit shutout and Luke Scott homered to lead Baltimore. Toronto lost its third straight and saw a six-game home winning streak ended. The Blue Jays had won seven of their past eight games against the Orioles.

RANGERS 5, TIGERS 4: At Arlington, Texas, Marlon Byrd hit a two-run triple in the ninth and scored the winning run on Chris Davis' single as Texas extended Detroit's losing streak to six games.

ROYALS 6, MARINERS 3: At Kansas City, Mo., Ryan Shealy, John Buck and David DeJesus homered and Kansas City extended its winning streak to five games.

ATHLETICS 8, ANGELS 1: At Oakland, Calif., the Athletics own their first three-game winning streak in three months after earning a rare win over Los Angeles ace John Lackey that ended the AL West champions' five-game winning streak.