"It had the makings of that (another difficult loss)," Howard said. "But we were able to bounce back and ... I was able to come through and hit the home run. But you don't want it to become routine. You want to get it done in nine."
The Phillies, winning their 13th of 16 games, led 1-0 going into the ninth but the Pirates tied it on their first pinch-hit homer of the season, by Brandon Moss against Ryan Madson - who has more blown saves (5) than saves (4).
Philadelphia didn't use closer Brad Lidge, who surrendered rookie Andrew McCutchen's game-ending, two-run homer in the ninth that finished off a three-run rally during the Pirates' 6-4 victory on Tuesday. Lidge, who has nine blown saves, had pitched in four consecutive games.
"I think he (Madson) can close, I know he can close," manager Charlie Manuel said, citing Madson's 97 mph fastball. "It's like Lidge, he needs to get in the groove and get going."
Despite allowing the homer, Madson (5-4) pitched the final two innings for the victory.
Madson's blown save cost Cole Hamels his first victory since July 28 after the left-hander pitched shutout ball for the first time in 2½ months, allowing seven hits over eight innings.
"When you pitch deep in games, I feel fresh, it's almost like I haven't really pitched the first half - which, really, I haven't," said Hamels, who is 7-8 after going a combined 29-15 the previous two seasons.
Hamels was 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in August, but repeatedly shut down Pirates threats in his best start since shutting out the Dodgers on five hits on June 4. He left the bases full in the fourth and stranded two runners in the second and seventh.
"His velocity was good and he stayed after it the whole eight innings," Manuel said. "When they had runners on base, that's when he really bore down. He's getting there."
The Pirates' bullpen has its own problems, and the Phillies took advantage in the 10th. Reliever Steven Jackson (2-3) walked Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino singled before left-hander Phil Dumatrait, pitching for only the third time since sitting out more than a year following shoulder surgery, came in to face the left-handed hitting Howard, who hit Dumatrait's first pitch into the right-field seats for his 35th homer and the Phillies' league-leading 180th.
Howard was in a 3-for-32 slump in PNC Park before getting hits in his final two at-bats.
"I'm starting to expect him to hit one every time up," Manuel said. "I'm getting disappointed when he doesn't."
Utley gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead with his 27th homer, a two-out drive in the first that was their only run in seven innings against Paul Maholm.
Maholm, coming off his first win in seven weeks, was sharper than Hamels most of the game except for one mistake - Utley's homer on an 0-1 pitch.
"He's a low-ball hitter and I threw it into his swing but, overall, that was the only pitch I didn't throw where I wanted to," Maholm said.
The Pirates, losing for the second time in eight games, left nine on base and were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
With the Phillies riding a big lead in the NL East and the Pirates in last place in the NL Central, there was a 50-50 mix among the 17,403 in the stands - with as many loudly cheering Phillies fans wearing red as there were Pirates fans in gold and black.
"It felt like we were on the road," Maholm said.
NOTES: Pirates SS Ronny Cedeno (broken right pinky) was scratched shortly before game time for the second straight day but had a pinch-hit double in the seventh. ... Maholm hasn't won successive starts since winning three straight from April 11-22. ... Maholm has an 0.78 ERA in three starts against Philadelphia the last two seasons.