It was the perfect script for the regular-season home finale, but the Phillies could not end it the way they wanted.
"The fans have been tremendous all year, but I'm disappointed," said Chase Utley, who hit a three-run homer in the fifth. "We can't do anything about it, so we're going to go to Washington and keep it going."
Instead, the Phillies, who never seem to make this process easy, had to settle for a less dramatic celebration on the train. With San Diego's 12-2 loss to Cincinnati that ended more than two hours after the Phillies lost, they were assured of at least winning the wild card.
On Monday, either a Braves loss or a Phillies win will clinch a fourth straight division crown.
"Am I disappointed?" manager Charlie Manuel said. "I don't know if I'm disappointed or not - as long as we clinch."
And eventually, that is bound to happen. For the Phillies to lose the division, they would have to lose their final six games and Atlanta would have to win its final six. Based upon head-to-head records, the Braves would be division champions.
"We have one goal right now," Raul Ibanez said, "and that's to win the division and to get it done as soon as possible."
Sunday presented a fine chance - a red-hot Cole Hamels against New York lefthander Pat Misch, who had not won a game since last October. The Phillies hadn't lost a game started by the Big Three since Aug. 30.
Hamels was not himself Sunday; he was more like the 2009 version that pitching coach Rich Dubee said "pitched with a lot of anger - with himself mostly."
On Sunday, some of that anger was directed toward home-plate umpire Mike Winters. Hamels, visibly upset with a few calls, threw up his hands during a leadoff walk to Angel Pagan in the fourth.
"It was frustrating," Hamels said, "but at the same time I have to go out and get the next guy."
So many times this season, Hamels has done that. But the next three batters reached base and the Mets scored three times in the inning. Manuel allowed Hamels to start the fifth and he promptly served up a solo home run to Carlos Beltran that ended his day.
It tied Hamels' shortest outing of the season (not affected by weather). He allowed two home runs in a start for the first time since June 26. The five runs he allowed were one more than he had given up in his previous six starts combined.
"It was one of those days for him," Manuel said.
The same could be said for the rest of the team, which went through the motions Sunday. The Mets did make two outstanding catches in the outfield to end the sixth and seventh innings - when the Phillies had runners in scoring position each time.
"It would have been nice," Howard said, "but we came up short."
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
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