PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Phillies spent all season trying to overtake the New York Mets. And once they took the lead, they gave it away.
So now, the NL East race comes down to this: The Phillies and Mets are tied with one game left.
Washington's Matt Chico pitched six solid innings yesterday and the Phillies' defense was shaky as the Nationals won, 4-2, to leave the division all even.
"I didn't have to say a word," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "They were all saying, 'We'll get them tomorrow. We've done it all year.' "
New York beat Florida, 13-0, at Shea Stadium to put pressure on the Phillies, who moved into sole possession of first place for the first time Friday night. If Philadelphia and the Mets are still tied after today, there will be a one-game playoff tomorrow at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies haven't made the playoffs since 1993. In 2005, they were eliminated on the final day. Last year, they were knocked out on the next-to-last day of the season.
With another sellout crowd waving their rally towels and turning the ballpark into a sea of red, the Phillies had a chance to control their playoff destiny. Instead, 44-year-old Jamie Moyer will face Jason Bergmann and the spoiler-minded Nationals, who swept a three-game series in New York before coming to Philadelphia.
"The way this team has battled the entire season, to have it come down to the final day, it's fun," said slugger Ryan Howard, who hit his 46th homer but also made a costly error at first in the seventh.
Howard homered off Jon Rauch with two outs in the eighth to cut it to 4-2. Chad Cordero pitched a perfect ninth for his 37th save in 46 chances.
Adam Eaton lasted just 2 1/3 innings, allowing one run, five hits, and two walks.