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PHILADELPHIA -- Players streamed on the field in familiar congratulatory formation, with the excitable Brett Myers, Aaron Rowand and Tadahito Iguchi leading the celebration.
The high-five delivered to a battered Iguchi by Carlos Ruiz had extra oomph, as the Phillies catcher enjoyed Wednesday's game-ending interference call at second base that ended
the Phils' emotional 3-2 win over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park.
The sight of enraged former Phillie Marlon Anderson unsuccessfully pleading his case provided a nice juxtaposition, as the Phillies maneuvered around him and Mets manager Willie Randolph to revel in a three-game stretch that saw them climb from six games back to three in the National League East, with a chance to get within two on Thursday.
Whenever the NL Wild Card race is broached to anyone in red pinstripes, an identical response is offered: Let's first see how the NL East race plays out.
"We were never out of it," Myers said. "We never viewed ourselves as out of it. It's like everybody has always said, 'We're going to have to take care of them ourselves.'"
The Phillies vaulted themselves back into the NL East race by meting out three wins that may chip away at the Mets' psyche.
They got to Brian Lawrence on Monday. A 50-foot swinging bunt line-hugger tied the game on Tuesday and allowed for Ryan Howard's walk-off home run in the 10th inning.
And now this.
"Heck of a game," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think the fans liked it, too."
The segment of the 43,150 fans roared on the game's final play which allowed Myers to escape a first-and-third, one-out jam. The right-hander whiffed Carlos Delgado after an eight-pitch battle, then allowed singles to Paul Lo Duca and Anderson.
With pinch-runner Endy Chavez poised as the tying run, Shawn Green hit a medium roller to Rollins, who fed to Iguchi. Anderson touched second, then continued hard into Iguchi, arms stretched out. Iguchi went down and the throw went into the dirt.
"I didn't see him get tackled," Myers said. "I guess Gooch took one for the team. See how he likes playing football. He had a crash course tonight."
Second-base umpire C.B. Bucknor ruled Anderson's aggressive takeout slide as obstruction, and ruled a double play.
"Marlon Anderson went after the second baseman to break up the double play and did not, and could not reach the base," crew chief Joe West said. "He went out of his way to interfere with the play and that created the interference. C.B. made a great call, a gutsy call and didn't back down. Granted, it's a tough way to lose a game, because there's a lot of tension, but he made the right call. The Mets will see that if they look."
"I played second base," Anderson said. "As long as I've been playing, that's a pretty routine play as long as you touch the base. That's the way the game is supposed to be played."
Baseball rules state: A batter is out when a preceding runner shall, in the umpire's judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play. The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base.
A similar play was made against the Phillies, when Ruiz was ruled to have interfered with Padres second baseman Marcus Giles in San Diego's 14-3 win on Friday. Jamie Moyer was roughed up in that game, but turned in a solid effort on Wednesday to secure his 12th win.
"It was a good call for us," Ruiz said.
"If we're in that situation where we're trailing, obviously to take out second base or shortstop is a must," Iguchi said, through interpreter David Yamamoto. "But at the same
time ... he used his hands at the end. That made it obvious."
What's also obvious is the NL East race if far from over, and perhaps the Phillies are in the Mets' heads.
"They've been a winning team since the first day, and I don't think that can get in their heads," said Abraham Nunez, who made two brilliant plays at third base. "They need to find a way to bounce back. We've been through every thing possible and we bounced back also. Good teams don't quit. We can't take it for granted and think we got them now. We have to come out and win [Thursday]."