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Phils' magic number at one despite defeat

Phils' magic number at one despite defeat

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies packed more than bats and balls for Sunday's train ride to Washington.

They packed champagne.

The Phillies had hoped to celebrate their fourth consecutive National League East championship Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, but they lost to the New York Mets, 7-3. Because the Atlanta Braves lost to the Washington Nationals, 4-2, the Phillies' magic number is one. A Phillies victory or a Braves loss Monday will clinch the division.

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The Phillies clinched a playoff berth anyway because the San Diego Padres lost to the Cincinnati Reds, but not one player in the Phillies' clubhouse sounded excited about that possibility before they learned it happened.

"We're focused on tomorrow, and our plan is to win," Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said.

"We might be doing some low-key patting on the back, but we want to accomplish our goal and nothing short," said Phillies closer Brad Lidge, asked if it is safe to assume there would be no celebrating in the bar car if the Padres fell. "That's when we'll celebrate."

The Phillies want the division.

They want the best record in the National League.

Wild Card? Get real.

But the Mets played spoiler this weekend. They handed the Phillies consecutive losses for the first time since Sept. 5-6, when they lost consecutive games to the Milwaukee Brewers and Florida Marlins. It also is the first time the Phillies lost a series since the Houston Astros swept them in four games Aug. 23-26 at the Bank.

"You come in here and you're playing against champagne on ice," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "That can be tough sometimes. With the fans that they have here, they're passionate, very into everything, watching the scoreboard -- that type of stuff. It creates a nice environment, nice energy, for baseball."

But it does not always equate to success for the home team. Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, who has been nearly unhittable for months, had one of his worst starts of the season. He allowed nine hits, five runs, three walks and two home runs in four-plus innings to fall to 12-11 with a 3.09 ERA.

The ballpark had a good vibe early. Fans cheered as the Nationals took a 1-0 lead over the Braves at Nationals Park. A Nationals victory combined with a Phillies victory would have allowed the Phillies to celebrate in front of their home crowd -- one that made for a franchise-record 3,647,249 fans this season -- which they had done for their previous three division titles.

Things quickly turned sour.

David Wright hit a solo home run to left field in the second inning to make it 1-0. Hamels allowed three hits in the third, but worked out of the jam. He did not have such luck in the fourth, when he allowed three more runs to make it 4-0.

Hamels raised his arms in frustration after he threw a pitch to Angel Pagan to start the fourth. He thought he threw a strike, but home-plate umpire Mike Winters called it a ball. Pagan eventually walked.

Hamels had kept his cool throughout the season, but not that time.

"It was frustrating, but I have to go out and get the next guy," Hamels said. "You can go out and get a double play. You can't put that [frustration] on the next pitch. You have to just kind of clear your head and go out and get the next guy."

The Phillies made things interesting in the fifth inning when Wilson Valdez and pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr. reached on singles and Chase Utley hit a two-out, three-run home run to right field to make it 5-3.

But the Mets scored two more runs in the ninth when Carlos Beltran hit a two-run homer to left against Ryan Madson. The Phillies lost, threw a few autographed baseballs into the stands for Fan Appreciation Day, then quietly headed to the clubhouse to change and pack.

They would not pop any champagne corks, which meant the clubhouse staff had to load those cases of champagne onto the train.

"Our goal is to win the division," Hamels said. "That's what we're on pace to do. It's just a matter of going out there tomorrow and getting the job done."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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