OAKLAND, Calif. – Ryan Howard was able to break through just once against the Oakland Athletics.
His home run was the only dent Philadelphia made in the Phillies' 3-1 loss to the Athletics on Friday night.
"That's how the game goes," Howard said on a night the A's hosted a fireworks display with a Star Wars theme. "The force was on their side."
Howard's home run against Jon Lester in the fourth inning was just his second career hit against A's pitching. It was also his NL-leading 32nd RBI against left-handed pitching.
"I really don't have an answer for that other than maybe he's just focusing on pitches away a little bit more and driving those balls," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Some of those home runs have been to center field and left-center field off the left-handed pitching."
Howard jumped on Lester's first pitch of the frame for his 22nd homer, a blast that sailed well over the center field fence.
"You go dead center here, that's pretty impressive," Lester said.
It was the Phillies' first visit to Oakland since 2008 and the start of just their fifth series against the A's. The home team has won each of the previous four series.
Phillies starter David Buchanan (6-8) gave up three runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings. He walked two and struck out six.
"He got on a pretty good roll. His aggressiveness was really evident," Sandberg said. "He's shown very good improvement. He's really making the most of this opportunity. He's come a long way in a lot of ways."
Buchanan has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his past 15 starts.
"The way that he's handled himself, the poise that he's shown, starting in spring training — he got a spring training invite and took advantage of it," Howard said. "He has definitely earned his spot."
Lester (16-10) allowed one run and five hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out seven en route to his third consecutive win. He improved to 4-0 against the Phillies, who have lost five of six.
Buchanan settled in after giving up three consecutive, two-out RBI singles, to Derek Norris, Eric Sogard and Coco Crisp. He retired 10 of the next 12 batters he faced.
"He's gaining confidence as he goes along," Sandberg said. "As far as stuff, this could have been one of his better outings. He's a grinder, he stays under control, he regroups when he has to and makes adjustments when he has to."
Phillies: INF Jimmy Rollins is getting closer to returning after missing nearly two weeks with a left hamstring strain. Rollins needs to show he can run sprints as a final test. ... OF Domonic Brown was scratched from the starting lineup, though no reason was provided. Grady Sizemore replaced him in left field.
Phillies: Jerome Williams (3-2, 2.84) will make his fifth appearance — and second start — against the Athletics this year on Saturday. He is 5-5 vs. the A's in 17 games, including 10 starts.
Athletics: Drew Pomeranz (5-4, 2.53) makes his first start since a spot outing Aug. 27 at Houston when the A's used a sixth starter to line up their pitchers for a series at the Angels. He is in the rotation for the first time since June 16, when he fractured his right hand. Pomeranz is taking Jason Hammel's spot in the rotation and will be facing the Phillies for the first time since 2012.
BY THE NUMBERS:
The Phillies fell to 6-12 in interleague games this season. ... INF Darin Ruf is 5 for 12 with three doubles over his last four games after going hitless in his previous 15 at bats. ... OF Ben Revere is hitting .341 (106 for 311) over his last 73 games.