Rollins extends hitting streak to 31 games

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The bullpen cracked, the defense crumbled and Philadelphia wasted an outstanding opportunity to gain ground in the NL wild-card race.

An awful inning to forget cost the Phillies a crucial game Monday night, when the New York Mets rallied for four runs in the eighth inning and a 6-5 victory.

Pat Burrell came to the plate with two runners on in the ninth but bounced back to the mound on a check-swing for the final out, dropping the Phillies 1½ games behind Houston in the NL wild-card race with five to play.

"The game was huge," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We're not out of it, but we need to win. We definitely can't lose any more games."

The defeat assured Atlanta of at least a tie for the NL East crown. The Braves can wrap up their 14th consecutive division title with one more victory or another Philadelphia loss.

Ugueth Urbina (4-3) wasted Brett Myers' stellar effort during the eighth-inning meltdown, putting the first two batters on before
Miguel Cairo's RBI double made it 5-3.

Carlos Beltran followed with a slow roller to second that a charging Chase Utley briefly had in his glove before it popped out. Utley tried to recover but threw wildly past first for an error, and two runs scored to tie it.

After Cliff Floyd singled off Aaron Fultz to send Beltran from first to third, Ryan Madson struck out David Wright and then hit Mike Piazza with a pitch, loading the bases. The left-handed hitting Mike Jacobs sent a sacrifice fly to deep center off the righty reliever -- with left-handed closer Billy Wagner not even warming up -- to put the Mets ahead 6-5.

"We've still got games to play and we still have the job of going out trying to win games," Jacobs said.

Manuel said he didn't second-guess himself for pulling Myers and didn't use Wagner because he had tightness in his left shoulder. At least that's what the manager says.

"Everybody's got soreness. Don't make no [stuff] up," said an angry Wagner, who said he was able to pitch and stormed off.

Shingo Takatsu (1-0) got one out in the seventh to earn the win, and Roberto Hernandez worked two innings for his third save.

"I feel like we deserved this victory," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "We haven't had a comeback like this in a while. All year long, we've had a lot of heartbreaking losses."

This time, the Mets hung one on the Phillies.

This loss was the most crushing for Philadelphia since Houston's Craig Biggio hit a two-out, three-run homer off Wagner in the ninth inning on Sept. 7 to complete a three-game sweep by the Astros.

The Phillies rebounded nicely after that one, but they might be running out of time now.

The Astros had an off day Monday before a two-game series in St. Louis and then finish the season with four home games against the Cubs.

The Phillies follow the three-game series with the Mets with a three-game series in Washington.

Jimmy Rollins homered on the first pitch to extend his hitting streak to 31 games and Burrell hit a solo shot. Myers struck out seven in seven strong innings, giving the Phillies the clutch September start he'd failed to deliver.

Rollins got a standing ovation before his first at-bat in a game delayed 2 hours, 35 minutes by rain and he never gave the fans a chance to stop cheering. The All-Star shortstop connected against Jae Seo, sending a drive off a beer sign that hangs off the second deck in right at Citizens Bank Park.

Fans demanded a curtain call after Rollins' 12th homer. He came out and waved to the crowd, and the rain-soaked faithful roared in appreciation.

Rollins matched the longest hitting streak in Phillies history, tying Ed Delahanty's mark set in 1899, and it's the longest streak in the majors since Florida's Luis Castillo hit in 35 straight games in 2002.

Rollins kept rolling in the second, hitting an RBI double for a 3-1 lead. There was a tense moment when he was hit in the shoulder by Danny Graves' pitch in the sixth. Rollins slowly walked to first base with his helmet off and Graves was booed when he was pulled.

Myers allowed Jacobs' eighth homer in the second, a solo shot to left. The right-hander retired his next nine hitters until Victor Diaz singled in the fifth and then promptly picked him off. Myers allowed an RBI groundout in the seventh that made it 4-2.

Burrell had an RBI infield single in the first and his 31st homer in the seventh. Bobby Abreu added a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Game notes
Right-hander Victor Zambrano (7-11, 4.10 ERA) will start for the Mets on Tuesday instead of right-hander Pedro Martinez. Martinez is 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA and has thrown 217 innings in his first season in New York. He is not expected to pitch again this year. ... Due to the rain, the Phillies will allow fans to exchange their ticket for one game between April 5 and May 11 next year.