PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A big lead in the standings allowed Joe Maddon to appreciate a game his team lost.
Jerad Eickhoff threw seven impressive innings, Ryan Howard hit a solo homer and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Eickhoff (3-8) allowed one run and two hits, striking out eight. Jeanmar Gomez pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and got the final six outs for his 19th save in 20 tries.
The Cubs lead the majors with a 40-17 record and entered the day with a 10-game lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central.
"That was a great baseball game," Maddon said. "(Eickhoff) was really good. Gomez came in and did a great job."
The Phillies strive to reach Chicago's level.
"That was just a little loss for the Cubs, but a huge morale boost for us," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
Howard hit his ninth homer way out to right-center to make it 2-0 in the fourth. The 2006 NL MVP started for the first time since a fan threw a plastic beer bottle at him after Saturday's game. Rookie Tommy Joseph has replaced the struggling Howard at first base and started the previous six games.
Kyle Hendricks (4-5) gave up two runs and four hits, striking out six in five innings.
Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera had RBI singles for the Phillies, who lost the first four games against the Cubs this season.
Trailing 3-1, the Cubs loaded the bases with no outs against Hector Neris in the eighth. Gomez entered and retired Dexter Fowler on a sacrifice fly. Jason Heyward then grounded into a double play started by second baseman Andres Blanco, who made an excellent grab on the sharply hit ball and a nifty flip to shortstop Freddy Galvis.
Gomez retired David Ross on a grounder to shortstop to end the game with runners on first and third.
Batting third for the first time in his career, Galvis hit a two-out double in the first inning. Franco followed with an RBI single to right to make it 1-0.
Herrera's RBI single with two outs in the seventh increased the lead to 3-1.
Eickhoff kept the Cubs off-balance by changing speeds. He struck out Kris Bryant twice on slow curves.
"He was able to make adjustments when he had to," Heyward said.
Cubs starting pitchers have allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of their last 12 games since May 27 vs. the Phillies. They have a 1.69 ERA in those 12 games.
Howard has hit homers in four of Philadelphia's one-run victories, including two 1-0 wins and a walk-off homer in a 4-3 win.
Cubs: OF Jorge Soler was placed on the 15-day DL because of a left hamstring strain. He was injured running to first base in Monday night's game. OF Albert Almora Jr. was called up from Triple-A Iowa to take his roster spot. He grounded out as a pinch-hitter in his major league debut.
RHP John Lackey (6-2, 2.88 ERA) starts for the Cubs against Phillies RHP Vince Velasquez (5-2, 3.67) on Wednesday afternoon.