So the bottom-line policy was in effect. They'd won, making their method -- and their mistakes -- meaningless, the manager said. The score was 10-9 after it had been 10-1. But that didn't matter to them either. Nothing that happens in such a significant victory could be so wrong.
Moreover, the Mets had done so much right -- four RBIs by David Wright, 17 hits -- the equal of their season high, three each by Endy Chavez, Damion Easley and Fernando Tatis, and an improved, if less-than-fulfilling, performance by Pedro Martinez.
As they did Saturday and Sunday, the Mets withstood the Phillies' 11th-hour resistance. And as they did 18 years ago, they defeated the Phillies, 10-9, in this city. Then, July 25, 1990, the Phillies produced a seven-run ninth inning. And the 27th out prompted a famous call by Murphy, the late Hall of Fame broadcaster: "The game is over. The Mets win it. The Mets win the ballgame. They win the damn thing by a score of 10 to 9."
The victory Monday might have prompted four-letter reactions as well, but for other reasons. As much as the Mets did well beating the division leaders for the seventh time in 10 games this season, they also were guilty of the type of misplays that cost Willie Randolph his job and compromised their chance of winning the division championship.
On Monday night, the Phillies scored only twice in the ninth -- against Billy Wagner again. But the Mets had allowed one, three and two runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings and allowed two runners to reach scoring position before Wagner retired Jayson Werth to end it.
So poor was their performance -- not Wagner's necessarily -- in the ninth inning that assistant general manager Tony Bernazard was conspicuously upset, and manager Jerry Manuel, while he didn't harp on the mistakes, he didn't dismiss them, either.
And as one player said, "We're should be happy that we won. But after how we played, we should be thankful, too."
Carlos Beltran was guilty of the most egregious play. He fielded the base hit though the middle by pinch-hitter Pedro Feliz that produced the eighth and ninth runs. But rather that relay the ball to second base to keep the tying run at first, the Gold Glove center fielder made a high, late and ill-advised throw to third in an effort to produce the 27th out.
His throw bounced past Wright, and with Wagner not backing up the play -- he hadn't anticipated a throw to the wrong base -- Feliz advanced to second.
"If David had caught the throw, he [Feliz] wouldn't have gone to second base," Beltran said. He seemed insulted by questions about his throw. But Feliz had broken for second the instant Beltran released the throw.
Manuel indicated the throw was ill-advised. He referred to it as a "fundamental mistake."
Beltran also was at fault in the sixth inning. He scored from third base on Martinez's single to center field. But neither he nor the next batter, Jose Reyes, signaled Easley, who had been on second base. Easley didn't slide -- catcher Chris Coste deked him -- and was tagged out.
Manuel noted that mistake as well. The Mets have been guilty of the same oversight previously.
"There are things we're working on, things we have to work on," he said. "But we're back in the race. Back above .500 [for the first time since June 5]. All this is just part of building character and getting stronger, because we know this [race] is going to be tough."
Perhaps the mistakes were why the Mets seemed a tad hesitant to identify what they'd accomplished in their three games as some sort of hat trick of significance. In this season of up and down, in and out, hot and cold, they have learned not to trust themselves and to see most of their achievements in a modest light. Whenever they have tried to walk the walk, they usually have taken one step back for each step forward.
Some recognized the mistakes and knew how ugly the loss would have been if Werth, who had crushed Wagner for a two-out, ninth-inning, game-tying home run Sunday, had singled for two runs.
But they all preferred to see the bottom line, the first three-game winning streak since May 27-29 -- 2 1/2 games from first for the first time since May 20, and Martinez's flawed but successful pitching after three poor starts. He was removed after allowing successive extra-base hits and having thrown 105 pitches. But his overall performance -- five hits, three walks, two runs and six strikeouts -- was encouraging if only because of what had preceded it.
Tony Armas replaced Martinez (3-2) and allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings, two coming on a disputed home run by Ryan Howard in the seventh. The Phillies' third home run -- Chase Utley and Pat Burrell had homered against Martinez -- was initially ruled a double. But when the call was changed, Manuel argued, and his arguing led to an ejection.
There was no disputing the pinch-hit two-run home run Geoff Jenkins hit off Aaron Heilman in the eighth to reduce the margin to 10-7.
"That was enough right there," said Wagner, whose 20th save wasn't pretty -- two hits, one walk and two runs. But closers see everything through the prism of the bottom line. "That's the best way to look at this one," he said.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less