Even if Fielder wins the RBI crown, Howard will be the last man standing. The Phillies still should easily win the National League East, needing any combination of four Phillies wins or Braves losses over both teams' final eight games to clinch.
The Brewers would prefer that the bottles of champagne in the visitors' clubhouse at Miller Park remain corked, and Manny Parra helped keep bubbly on ice Friday night.
Parra (11-10) returned from missing three starts with a stiff neck and worked seven strong innings while matching a season high with eight strikeouts. He allowed two runs, but one of them was unearned, and the other would have been, too, if not for an official scoring change.
That call came in the fourth, when the Phillies scored two runs without a hit. Jimmy Rollins reached on third baseman Casey McGehee's error and Shane Victorino walked. After Fielder made a diving stop to rob Chase Utley, Howard hit a one-hopper past Fielder's backhand that scored both runners and was at first ruled an error. Upon further review, official scorer Tim O'Driscoll changed it to a hit, giving Howard two RBIs instead of one and ending Parra's no-hit bid. Fielder already had one RBI by this point, but the ruling temporarily gave Howard the Major League lead at 134.
O'Driscoll agonized over the call. He ordered a replay from the television booth and watched the play at least five times before rendering a revised ruling.
He's been scoring Brewers games for 23 years, and was aware of the impact he could have not only on Parra's pitching line but potentially on the RBI chase. That wasn't the priority.
"I just want to get it right," O'Driscoll said.
Parra settled for a win over Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee (7-3), who matched a season high in allowing seven runs -- the most he'd allowed as a Phillie. Parra had not pitched since Sept. 8, but he insisted he wasn't worried about being rusty.
"I think it actually refreshed me, if anything," Parra said. "I really didn't put too much pressure on myself today. [Scoring early against Lee] put momentum on our side, especially against a guy like that. That's a tough win right there for our hitters. Any day, they can beat anybody."
In six innings Lee surrendered nine hits, including Fielder's RBI single in the first inning and his three-run homer in the fifth. Mike Cameron also hit a three-run home run for the Brewers off Lee, snapping his 0-for-13 funk.
"The pitches to Cameron and to Fielder both were basically down the middle," Lee said. "I've got to make better pitches than that and keep the ball in the ballpark."
McGehee contributed an RBI single and has 24 RBIs in September, most in the Majors. Boston's Jason Bay is next with 23 RBIs in the month.
Fielder's homer was his 43rd this season and his fourth in the Brewers' past six games. He has 136 RBIs with eight games left, and Howard had 135 RBIs with nine games remaining.
"I'm not trying to compete with him," Fielder said. "I'm just trying to help my team win and really just compete with myself. Keep playing hard and keep producing and see what happens."
That outlook didn't surprise Fielder's manager.
"I would think that as well as Prince has done, he would like to finish it. But I don't know if that's what's driving him," Ken Macha said. "He got jammed on one play [in the third inning] and ran 100 mph to first. The guy is just playing hard, and I've been saying all along that he gives up no at-bats. That's why he's in the position he is in."
Fielder's teammates are pulling for him.
"We want this for Prince just as bad as he wants it," Parra said of the RBI chase. "It would be nice if he could win that race."