Regardless, the Phillies are sticking with their "not dead" story and it helped their case that they beat the Mets and Cy Young Award candidate R.A. Dickey, 3-1, Monday night in front of a sparse crowd at Citi Field.
Jimmy Rollins and Domonic Brown supported another outstanding performance by lefthander Cliff Lee with solo home runs and the Phillies climbed back to .500 at 74-74. They also closed to within 31/2 games of the idle St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second wild card with 14 games left to play.
"The games we played [in Houston], we kind of beat ourselves," Manuel said. "We bounced back tonight. Of course, when you have somebody pitching the way we did, it's not hard. We beat a good pitcher."
After struggling for victories earlier this season, Lee is now in the kind of groove that has made him a Cy Young contender and a one-time winner of the award. He improved to 6-7 overall and 4-0 in his last five starts by holding the Mets to a single run on seven hits over eight innings. He also struck out 10 batters and issued just one walk. The Phillies are 5-0 in Lee's last five starts and he has a 0.77 ERA in that stretch.
"I was able to command my fastball and mix in the other stuff to keep them off balance a little bit and we made the plays," Lee said. "It was a big win for us."
Although the results have been the polar opposite, Lee said he feels the same now as he did earlier in the year when nothing seemed to go his way.
"For whatever reason, earlier in the season I just didn't get many breaks and things didn't go my way," Lee said. "Of late, I've got more breaks and I've done a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark. Eliminating that has been a big difference, but other than that I feel the same."
Lee has not allowed a home run in his last six starts after surrendering 20 in his first 21 outings.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth and picked up his 35th save.
After watching the Astros take advantage of their mistakes at Minute Maid Park, the Phillies jumped on a couple of New York gaffes to build a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Dickey opened the game with a strikeout of Rollins, but the Phillies' shortstop ended up at first base because of a passed ball by catcher Mike Nickeas. An errant pickoff throw by Dickey allowed Rollins to reach second base, and Chase Utley eventually accounted for the game's first run with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Rollins' home run off Dickey came in the fifth when he hit a knuckleball that just cleared the right-field fence and had to be reviewed by the umpires before being ruled a homer. It was Rollins' 21st home run of the season and his fourth in seven games.
Brown padded the Phillies' lead to 3-1 with his fourth home run of the season in the sixth.
Beating Dickey, who was going after his 19th victory of the season, was a big deal because of his tremendous credentials, but beating the Mets at Citi Field was not a special accomplishment at all.
New York fell to 4-22 at home since the all-star break and failed to break the three-run barrier for the 14th straight game at home.
Lee described the flight from Houston to New York as "normal" on Sunday night, but the Phillies understand their situation.
"It's definitely not where we want to be, but we've still got a chance," Lee said. "Considering the way we played in the first half, we're pretty lucky to be where we are right now, to be honest with you."
Contact Bob Brookover at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @brookob on Twitter.