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THISCLOSE: Phils magic number at 1

Oh, 'twas a glorious evening for baseball in the mid-Atlantic region, despite enough mist and fog and potential lurking dread to make Jack the Ripper feel at home. In Philadelphia, your Phillies confounded those of us who feared they'd come out squeezing bats to sawdust, putting up three runs against the Nationals in the first inning on Ryan Howard's 48th home run of the season, then after allowing a run back in the top of the second, adding four more in the bottom of the inning on a bases-loaded double by Chase Utley and a double from Howard to take a 7-1 lead. Meanwhile to the north, the Florida Marlins scored two in the first to put early pressure on the Mets. 

Phils starter Joe Blanton turned into a reasonable facsimile of Brandon Webb for awhile, recording groundball out after groundball out until a Howard error led to two unearned Washington runs in the 5th. Blanton surrendered a solo homer an inning later--prompting the first instant-replay usage in the history of Citizens Bank Park--and left with a 7-4 lead. With a parade of Nationals relievers quieting the Phils' bats, tension began to bubble, but an insurance run on a passed ball in the bottom of the 7th stretched the lead to 8-4, and with spotless relief from Scott Eyre, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero and a dominant-looking Brad Lidge, there it stayed. 

The Marlins and Mets stayed at 2-0 until the teams traded single runs in the 6th inning. But Florida put it away with three late runs--two scored by Hanley Ramirez, who finished 4 for 5 with three runs and two steals--to win it 6-1. The result pushed the Mets two back of the Phillies, who clinched at least a play-in game on Monday... and at this writing, the Mets look to be a game down in the wild card race after tonight, with Milwaukee leading the Cubs 5-1 and about to bat in the 8th. 

Facing possible elimination, the Mets might bring back Johan Santana to pitch on three days' rest tomorrow against Marlins ace Ricky Nolasco. That game starts at 1:10pm; the Phils could clinch the East before the start of their contest at 3:55.