Phils alone atop Wild Card pack

Phils alone atop Wild Card pack

NEW YORK -- Before he stepped in against Pedro Martinez with two outs in the fourth inning, Ryan Howard had a message for starter Brett Myers.

"He said, 'I have something for you,' " said Myers. "He did."

Howard delivered a big "something" for Myers and the Phillies, a solo home run into the left-field seats that seemed to break the seal on what was becoming another dominant Martinez performance.

"I think [the pitch] was middle-in, but I was just able to pull my hands in and it carried for me," said Howard.

Chase Utley produced two "somethings" as well in the 8-2 win, including a two-run shot that gave Philadelphia a three-run lead in the seventh. Four batters earlier, Mike Lieberthal went deep and broke a 2-2 tie.

"We stayed with them, battled through it and were able to get to him," said manager Charlie Manuel. "It was a big win for us, but all of them are big from here on out."

Wednesday's win was as big as any that followed a frustrating late defeat, such as the one on Tuesday, when Ramon Castro homered the Mets to victory.

New York had taken a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first two innings, the second coming on a homer by Castro to the same spot in left field he'd found the night before. It came on the first pitch from Myers, who said that he overthought the situation.

"After the guy before him swung at the first pitch, and with the pitcher next, I thought he would take the first one and give Pedro a little more time [to rest]," said Myers (12-6). "He swung, and it worked out for him."

Despite a rising pitch count, Myers settled down and delivered just what the Phillies needed -- seven quality innings. The maturing right-hander continued to be the team's stopper, improving to 6-1 with a 3.21 ERA after Phillies losses, and Philadelphia is 9-1 in his past 10 starts.

That didn't thrill the crowd of 43,870, who let Myers have it from the start. But he silenced the fans, and the Mets' bats.

"It was very loud, and my adrenaline was really pumping," he said. "It makes you feel really good to stick it [to them]. It seemed like there were 100,000 people."

"Brett got better as the game went on," said Lieberthal. "He's a strong guy, genetically. He's the type of guy who doesn't have to run, but will have stamina and last deep in games. He's been strong from birth."

Myers was grateful for the support of his teammates in the sixth inning, when Kenny Lofton made two spectacular running, over-the-shoulder grabs on balls hit by Cliff Floyd and Victor Diaz. Those catches were magnified, as the game was tied at the time.

"If he doesn't make those catches, it might be a very different ballgame," said Manuel.

"Kenny's catches really sparked us," said Myers.

Martinez (13-6) tied a career high by allowing four homers for the third time in his career, and the first since June 10, 1998. He surrendered five runs in a game for the fourth time this season.

In snapping its three-game losing streak in a big way, Philadelphia took sole position of the Wild Card lead, with New York falling to 1 1/2 games behind. Houston won to stay a half-game out, and Florida fell to one back by losing to St. Louis.

Atlanta split its doubleheader with Washington, allowing the Phillies to pull within four games of first in the National League East.

"This was a big game for us," said Myers. "We're trying to get ourselves in a situation to get in the playoffs."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.