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PHI@NYM: Utley tallies four hits and four RBIs

NEW YORK -- It had to have been difficult for Mr. Met to haul his gargantuan cranium onto the field in the seventh inning Thursday at Citi Field.

The Mets had lost long before then.

The Phillies crushed the hapless Mets, 16-1, to sweep the series to improve to 76-74 and remain four games behind the Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card with 12 games to play.

"We jumped out there," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of the eight-run, 33-minute first inning. "It seemed like everything we hit started to fall. We put up an eight-spot on them. The balls were falling in. Things were going our way."

But while the Phillies came to Citi Field and did what they needed to do, they could only lament the opportunity they wasted last weekend when they lost three or four to Houston.

"Yeah, it's one of those things," said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who hit a grand slam in the ninth inning. "We didn't have things go the way we wanted in Houston. The only thing we can do is try to continue to win and let the rest sort itself out."

"It's up to us to keep playing," Manuel said. "That's all we can do. Play each game every day, try to win, see what happens. We're going to have to get some help. Somebody's got to beat the Cardinals. And Dodgers. And Milwaukee."

Even with their impressive showing in New York, the Phillies still need a lot of help to make the postseason for the sixth consecutive year. If they finish 9-3, they would need the Cardinals to finish no better than 5-7 to tie. That is a tall task, considering the Phillies play nine of their remaining games against the Nationals and Braves, and the Cardinals play their next six games against the Astros and Cubs. But even if St. Louis stumbles, the Dodgers and Brewers still separate the two teams in the standings. And the Brewers have been the hottest team in baseball since Aug. 19, going on a 23-6 run.

The Phillies started Thursday on a remarkable run of their own. They opened with six consecutive singles to take a 3-0 lead.

"When you see J-Roll [Jimmy Rollins] get a hit and then the bunt and then Chase [Utley] get a hit, you start thinking that something's brewing," Juan Pierre said. "Some pitchers feel they are a double play away from getting out of the inning with only a few runs. It just kept going, though. Everyone had good at-bats through the lineup."

Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner then walked Kevin Frandsen with the bases loaded to make it 4-0, which is when Mets manager Terry Collins pulled him for Collin McHugh.

But the McHugh-Hefner transition didn't run smoothly.

McHugh hit Erik Kratz with a pitch to force in another run to make it 5-0. Tyler Cloyd bounced into a double play, but Rollins singled to score two more runs to make it 7-0. Utley followed with a single two batters later -- the Phillies' eighth single of the inning -- to score Rollins to make it 8-0.

The Phillies were hardly finished, though. After Utley drove in another run in the eighth, Philadelphia put up seven runs in the ninth, highlighted by Howard's slam. Utley finished 4-for-5 with four RBIs, and Pierre tallied five hits.

Cloyd allowed three hits, one run, two walk and struck out six in eight innings.

"No disrespect to Tyler Cloyd, none whatsoever, but three hits? Please," Collins said. "We're better than that."

The Phillies fell two runs short of tying the franchise record for most runs scoring in the first inning. They last scored 10 runs in the first inning on July 6, 2009, against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park. It was the first time the Phillies opened a game with six or more hits since June 13, 1980, when they opened with seven consecutive hits against the Padres at Veterans Stadium.

It also was the first time they started a game with their first eight batters reaching base since Aug. 5, 1975, a 13-5 victory over the Cubs at Veterans Stadium.

And the last tidbit of the night? It is the first time the Phillies scored eight runs in the first inning on the road since 1912.

A reporter mentioned to Howard that is the year the Titantic sunk in the Atlantic.

"That's a Snapple fun fact for everybody," Howard joked.

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