Phillies leave New York with wild-card lead

NEW YORK (AP) -- A day after rallying to beat Pedro Martinez, the Philadelphia Phillies took advantage Tom Glavine's defense and headed out of New York with the NL wild-card lead.

NL wild-card standings





























David Bell blooped a two-run single in the first following Glavine's misplay of a potential inning-ending grounder, backing a strong outing by Jon Lieber and leading the Phillies over the New York Mets 3-1 on Thursday.

Ryan Howard boosted the Phillies' margin with a 430-foot homer in the ninth off Braden Looper.

"Right now, we're very confident. We're not letting one loss turn into two," said Billy Wagner, who completed the four-hitter by converting his 23rd straight save chance since May 24.

Philadelphia, which began Thursday a half-game ahead in the wild-card race, won two straight after wasting a lead in the opener of the three-game series. The Phillies headed to Washington to complete their 12-game trip and then return to Philadelphia for a

homestand against wild-card rivals Houston and Florida and NL East-leading Atlanta.

"Everybody's playing each other right now," Howard said. "People are knocking heads, Two out of three will be good anywhere you go."

New York dropped 2½ games behind the Phillies and left for a trip to Florida, Atlanta and St. Louis. The Mets were in position to take over the wild-card lead before Martinez failed to hold a 2-0 advantage against the Phillies in an 8-2 loss Wednesday night.

"I don't know what the heck I'm doing, but overall, everybody's just trying too hard," said Cliff Floyd, who hasn't homered since Aug. 16. "Hopefully, we can get it back because it would be a shame to waste what we've done so far."

Lieber (13-12) threw 68 of 98 pitches for strikes, allowing four hits, striking out six and walking none. He gave up his only run in the sixth when Jose Reyes led off with a triple and scored on Kaz Matsui's groundout.

Coming off losses in consecutive outings in which the Phillies were shut out, Lieber allowed two runs or fewer for the fifth time in his last six starts. He was 4-1 in April, lost nine of his next 14 decisions and then has gone 4-2 since Aug. 1.

"I think I tried to be a little too fine the months of May and June," he said.

Lieber has a home in Mobile, Ala., and decided to have his family fly to New York on Sunday with Hurricane Katrina approaching.

"We had maybe a little flooding in the backyard," said Lieber, who added there was only minor damage to the house.

Matsui's grounder started a string of nine straight outs for Lieber. Ugueth Urbina followed with a perfect eighth, and Wagner got three outs for his 32nd save in 34 chances.

With a runner on first and two outs in the ninth, David Wright

took a called third strike on a pitch he thought was inside, and he threw his bat in disgust.

After winning the first four games of a road trip last week, the Mets have lost four of five.

"We're going to need to find it real quick if we're going to stay in this thing," Wright said.

Glavine (10-12) nearly matched Lieber, giving up three hits and four walks in seven innings. But he did himself in with his defense.

Jason Michaels doubled with one out in the first, Bobby Abreu

walked and Pat Burrell hit a comebacker for what should have been an easy inning-ending double play. But the pitcher fumbled the ball twice and could only get the out at first.

"I was expecting a hop I didn't get, and when I started to turn, I didn't catch it," Glavine said. "My momentum was going toward second, and I reached for it and didn't get it cleanly again."

He loaded the bases with a walk to Chase Utley and got ahead in the count 0-2 on Bell, who lofted an opposite-field single into short right field.

"Espcially when he gets ahead, he doesn't make too many mistakes," Bell said.Game notes
Bell made a nice backhand play and threw out Reyes on his leadoff bouncer to third base in the first. ... Clearing roster spots for September callups, the Mets designated outfielder Ron Calloway for assignment and the Phillies designated right-hander Clay Condrey and infielder Juan Richardson for assignment. ... Philadelphia hitting coach Milt Thompson was ejected by plate umpire Larry Young in the seventh. The argument came after right fielder Victor Diaz got a late break and made a diving catch on a fly ball, which appeared to hit the webbing of the glove of Diaz, who held on.