Mets can't capitalize on Phillies' loss

Mets can't capitalize on Phillies' loss

NEW YORK -- They're determined to use every second of this season, it seems, to decide who still might be playing come October. The Mets, Phillies and Brewers all took steps toward the gravitational center of the National League playoff race on Wednesday, further tightening things with merely four days left to play.

"It's a four-game season," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "It all comes down to who wants it more."

By losing, 9-6, on Wednesday, the Mets dropped back into a tie atop the NL Wild Card standings with the Brewers. They remained 1 1/2 games back of the Phillies, who also lost, but could trim that margin to a single game with a win against the Cubs in the series finale on Thursday.

So with four days to go, the Mets, Phillies and Brewers all remain in control of their own fates. If they all win the remainder of their games, then the Phillies would be NL East champions and the Mets and Brewers would play a one-game playoff to determine the NL Wild Card winner. But more likely, it won't be that simple.

The Mets will play their fourth and final game against the Cubs on Thursday, starting Pedro Martinez opposite Rich Harden. The Phillies are off, and the Brewers -- who won on Wednesday on the back of CC Sabathia -- will complete their three-game series at home against the Pirates.

"We're still breathing," Sabathia said after Wednesday's 4-2 win.

The Brewers on Thursday will start Yovani Gallardo, who hasn't thrown a Major League pitch in more than four months. And they haven't ruled out the possibility of using Ben Sheets -- who hasn't pitched since last week with a sore right elbow -- at some point during this weekend's series against the Cubs.

It's risky. But what's clear is that the Brewers will use every possible weapon at their disposal to win the NL Wild Card. Sabathia, for his part, will make Sunday's season finale his third straight start on three days' rest if the Brewers are still fighting.

The Phillies, meanwhile, remain in the best shape of the three teams despite Wednesday's 10-4 defeat. They're one game ahead of all challengers in the loss column, and face the easiest assignment -- three at home against the Nationals -- this weekend. But that doesn't mean they're confident in their ability to seal up this race before Sunday's final day.

"It wouldn't be the Philly way," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said after Wednesday's loss. "It doesn't matter what sport -- we don't make things easy."

Nothing in this race seems easy, and everything might yet become even more muddled. Should the Mets and Brewers tie for the NL Wild Card lead, they would play a one-game playoff at Shea Stadium on Monday. More unlikely, but still possible, the Phillies would play a one-game playoff at Citizens Bank Park if they tied for the NL Wild Card lead with the Brewers. And if Milwaukee wins the NL Wild Card but the Mets and Phillies tie for the NL East lead, then the latter two would play a one-game playoff in Philadelphia.

If all three teams tie, then the Mets and Phillies would play Monday in Philadelphia to determine the division champion, with the loser hosting Milwaukee for the NL Wild Card tiebreaker.

The Astros won Wednesday -- staving off elimination for yet another day -- but any combination of two losses or Mets or Brewers wins would knock them out of contention. The Diamondbacks, too, are still alive, but their elimination number is down to one. And every other NL team -- with the exception of the three division leaders, the Mets and the Brewers -- has been eliminated.

Making matters cloudier, however, is the fact that rainstorms, originally expected to hit New York and Philadelphia by the weekend, might instead swirl into the Northeast by Thursday, and linger for most of Friday and Saturday. Should that occur, rotations might be shuffled and implications altered before the season comes to an end.

"I always think that we're going to play," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said, disregarding the notion that weather might have a hand in his team's playoff run. "I don't want to rely on the forecast to determine what we're going to do."

Yet it might, nonetheless. If rain forces the postponement of any game down the stretch, then the Mets could potentially forego using a spot starter -- either Brandon Knight or Nelson Figueroa -- on Saturday. Johan Santana could instead take his regular turn on Sunday, followed by Oliver Perez on three days' rest. Manuel said on Wednesday that out of all his starters, he would be most inclined to use Perez on short rest.

If the Mets play their remaining games as scheduled, however, then Manuel would be forced to choose between either a spot starter Saturday or Santana on three days' rest. He wouldn't commit to either before Wednesday's game, saying only that Santana would need to convince him to pitch.

"It's possible, too," Manuel said. "I can be had."

2007 Mets Phillies Mets' Lead 2008 Mets Phillies Mets' Lead
9/1 Won @ ATL, 5-1 Lost @ FLA, 12-6 3 9/1 Won @ MIL, 4-2 Lost @ WSH, 7-4 2
9/2 Won @ ATL, 3-2 Lost @ FLA, 7-6 4 9/2 Won @ MIL, 6-5 Won @ WSH, 4-0 2
9/3 Won @ CIN, 10-4 Lost @ ATL, 5-1 5 9/3 Won @ MIL, 9-2 Lost @ WSH, 9-7 3
9/4 Won @ CIN, 11-7 Won @ ATL, 5-2 5 9/4 Off Off 3
9/5 Lost @ CIN, 7-0 Lost @ ATL, 9-8 5 9/5 Lost vs PHI, 3-0 Won @ NYM, 3-0 2
9/6 Off Off 5 9/6 Rain out Rain out 2
9/7 Won vs HOU, 11-3 Lost vs FLA, 6-3 6 9/7 Split DH with PHI Split DH with NYM 2
9/8 Won vs HOU, 3-1 Won vs FLA, 9-1 6 9/8 Off Won vs FLA, 8-6 1.5
9/9 Won vs HOU, 4-1 Won vs FLA, 8-5 6 9/9 Won vs WSH, 10-8 Lost vs FLA, 10-8 2.5
9/10 Won vs ATL, 3-2 Won vs COL, 6-5 6 9/10 Won vs WSH, 13-10 Lost vs FLA, 7-3 3.5
9/11 Lost vs ATL, 13-5 Lost vs COL, 8-2 6 9/11 Off Won vs MIL, 6-3 3
9/12 Won vs ATL, 4-3 Lost vs COL, 12-0 7 9/12 Rain out Rain out 3
9/13 Off Won vs COL, 12-4 6.5 9/13 Split DH with ATL Won vs MIL, 7-3 2.5
9/14 Lost vs PHI, 3-2 Won @ NYM, 3-2 5.5 9/14 Lost vs ATL, 7-4 Won DH from MIL 1
9/15 Lost vs PHI, 5-3 Won @ NYM, 5-3 4.5 9/15 Lost @ WSH, 7-2 Off 0.5
9/16 Lost vs PHI, 10-6 Won @ NYM, 10-6 3.5 9/16 Lost @ WSH, 1-0 Won vs ATL, 8-7 -0.5
9/17 Lost @ WSH, 12-4 Won @ STL, 13-11 2.5 9/17 Won @ WSH, 9-7 Won @ ATL, 6-1 -0.5
9/18 Lost @ WSH, 9-8 Won @ STL, 7-4 1.5 9/18 Won @ WSH 7-2 Won @ ATL, 4-3 -0.5
9/19 Won @ WSH, 8-4 Lost @ STL, 2-1 2.5 9/19 Won @ ATL, 9-5 Lost @ FLA, 14-8 0.5
9/20 Lost @ FLA, 8-7 Won @ WSH, 7-6 1.5 9/20 Lost @ ATL, 4-2 Won @ FLA, 3-2 -0.5
9/21 Won @ FLA, 9-6 Won @ WSH, 6-3 1.5 9/21 Lost @ ATL, 7-6 Won @ FLA, 5-2 -1.5
9/22 Won @ FLA, 7-2 Won @ WSH, 4-1 1.5 9/22 Lost vs. CHC, 9-5 Won vs. ATL, 6-2 -2.5
9/23 Won @ FLA, 7-6 Lost @ WSH, 5-3 2.5 9/23 Won vs. CHC, 6-2 Lost vs. ATL, 3-2 -1.5
9/24 Lost vs WSH, 13-4 Off 2 9/24 Lost vs. CHC, 9-6 Lost vs. ATL, 10-4 -1.5
9/25 Lost vs WSH, 10-9 Lost vs ATL, 10-6 2 9/25 CHC Off
9/26 Lost vs WSH, 9-6 Won vs ATL, 5-2 1 9/26 FLA WSH
9/27 Lost vs STL, 3-0 Won vs ATL, 6-4 Tied 9/27 FLA WSH
9/28 Lost vs FLA, 7-4 Won vs WSH, 6-0 -1 9/28 FLA WSH
9/29 Won vs FLA, 13-0 Lost vs WSH, 4-2 Tied        
9/30 Lost vs FLA, 8-1 Won vs WSH, 6-1 -1        

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