NEW YORK -- Glancing briefly at second place with three outs to go, the Phillies weren't impressed with the view. Rudely shoved there by Johan Santana, Carlos Delgado and Ramon Castro, the Phillies showed their preference for the top spot, mounting an 11-batter, six-run rally off a Billy Wagner-less Mets bullpen to upend New York, 8-6, on Tuesday. "We didn't go, did we?" manager Charlie Manuel said, 30 minutes after his team staved off a drop in the standings. "We're still in [first] and we play again tomorrow night."
While they would've played again on Wednesday regardless, Tuesday represented the first real threat to their claim as the National League East leaders. The Phillies trotted out their newest acquisition, Joe Blanton, with the goal of thwarting Santana, the Mets' ace. Santana coughed up a run in the first inning, allowing three straight two-out hits, then shackled the Phils until Shane Victorino homered with two outs in the seventh. New York had built a lead on Blanton with an RBI double by David Wright and two-run homers by Delgado and Castro. Delgado may have been out prior to clubbing his tater on a check swing on an 0-2 pitch, but the Phillies didn't get that call. Hitting coach Milt Thompson and Manuel were ejected for disagreeing. "Milt got thrown out, and I went to ask why," Manuel said. "I said, 'He's hollering at you because he thought you missed a call' and he threw me out. He started cursing at me and I went back over there." The manager and coaches watched a great comeback from the visitors' clubhouse. Blanton gave the Phillies six innings, but also gave the Mets five runs on eight hits, including the two home runs. New York kept the game close by getting Endy Chavez thrown out at the plate for the first out of two different innings. With Wagner nursing a sore left shoulder, the Mets turned to Duaner Sanchez to start the ninth, and Jayson Werth, pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs and Victorino singled, loading the bases with no outs. Enter Joe Smith, who got Carlos Ruiz to ground to shortstop. Jose Reyes barehanded the slow roller, and raced to the base to get the force. One problem: He didn't touch the base. "When you hustle, you never know what's going to happen," Manuel said. "That changed the whole inning around." "His mistake was not giving the ball up," Jimmy Rollins said. "He already made the highlights with the barehanded grab. It takes a lot of courage to do that in that situation. He was trying to get two outs and save the game. Shane was coming down and the ball wasn't as close as he thought it was going to be." With Geoff Jenkins announced as a pinch-hitter, Mets manager Jerry Manuel went with Pedro Feliciano, and bench coach Jimy Williams -- acting as manager in the ejected Charlie Manuel's stead -- countered with So Taguchi, who had been 0-for-16 as a pinch-hitter. Taguchi fell behind, 0-2, then fouled off three pitches before doubling over the head of right fielder Endy Chavez. So much for going hitless. "I didn't want to count [hitless at-bats]," Taguchi said. "I finally got a hit as a pinch-hitter. I was just a small part." His teammates disagree. "Great at-bat by So," Rollins said. "Huge," Victorino said. With the game tied, Rollins doubled in two more runs to give the Phillies the lead. They added another run on a groundout, then let Brad Lidge do his thing. How big can a win be on July 22? It means the Phillies will spend a 51st day with at least a share of the top spot in the division. They got to first after beating Florida on June 1 and built a four-run cushion by June 13. That had been whittled away with a 13-18 skid. The Phillies entered the game 3-7 against the Mets in 2008, and New York seemed to be riding a wave of momentum. "It's one game," Rollins said. "We went up one game. It's a great way to do it, no doubt about that. It's a great place to get it done, but we have to come out there tomorrow. We've been in a situation where we blew teams out, then turn around and lose seven in a row. We have to make sure that doesn't happen."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.