PHILADELPHIA -- In the space of barely 60 seconds, two loud cheers erupted from the crowd at Citizens Bank Park. The first came when a long line drive from the Brewers' Ryan Braun settled into the glove of Phillies left fielder Eric Bruntlett, punctuating Philadelphia's 7-3 win over Milwaukee on Saturday evening. At almost the same time, 101 miles away at New York's Shea Stadium, the Mets' Jose Reyes whiffed on a slider from Braves closer Mike Gonzalez, sending the Mets to a 3-2 defeat.More
When that score flashed on Citizens Bank Park's scoreboard, many of the 45,105 in attendance were halfway up the aisles and headed toward the exits. But they stopped to celebrate, for Saturday could not have ended much better for Philadelphia. The Phillies' win moved them to within two games of the Brewers in the National League Wild Card race. Of course, Philadelphia still has its eyes on the prize -- repeating as champions of the NL East. New York's loss moved Philly to within two games of the division lead with 14 games to play. The Mets won the nightcap to increase their division lead to to 2 1/2 games. "The name of the game is to get in," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "And right now, we're sitting the same distance in both areas, the Wild Card and the division. The only thing we can control right now is the Wild Card, because that's the team we're playing against." Rollins was a big reason the Phillies were able to beat the Brewers on Saturday for the second straight game. The shortstop had leadoff hits in both the first and second innings -- a single in the first and a double in the second -- and scored each time, as the Phillies built an insurmountable 5-0 lead by the end of the second. Rollins cemented the victory with a two-run homer in the sixth. Though Rollins started slowly, his numbers have been on a steady climb for the past three weeks. Since Aug. 25, the shortstop is hitting .408 (31-for-76) and has scored 12 runs. "When he scores a run in a game, look at our record," manager Charlie Manuel said. The Phils are 37-14 in 2008 when Rollins scores at least one run in a game. "It's absolutely amazing," Manuel said. "When he gets on base, it definitely sets the stage for our offense to go." And go it did, behind a solid outing from starter Cole Hamels. The left-hander held the Brewers to two runs in 6 1/3 innings. The only time Milwaukee threatened Philadelphia's lead was in the fourth. With two men on, left fielder Pat Burrell started in on a fly ball from the Brewers' Jason Kendall. Burrell, realizing he had misplayed the ball, started to backtrack, but it sailed over his head and rolled to the wall, allowing two runs to score. But the Phillies' offense was the story Saturday. Ryan Howard increased his Major League-leading RBI total to 131 with a two-run single in the second. Along with Rollins, Howard is providing the same offensive spark that helped Philly surge to a division title last season. "I think that the goal is to make the playoffs," Howard said. "You want to win the division, first and foremost. But, if you can't, then you settle for the Wild Card and get in the playoffs, because all that stuff doesn't really matter that much."
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less