Because the Mets lost Friday and the Phillies and Brewers won, the latter two teams now both own complete control over their own destinies. Even if the Mets win their final two games against the Marlins, the Phillies can clinch the NL East title simply by winning one more game, and the Brewers can win the NL Wild Card by winning both of their remaining games against the Cubs.
"I would have to say I'm concerned," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "There's no doubt about that."
CC Sabathia has started back-to-back games on three days' rest with fine success for the Brewers, and is scheduled to pitch Sunday, if needed. And so the Mets can only hope that Santana will give them similar results.
"I don't know much about pitching," Mets third baseman David Wright said, "but I like Johan."
Santana, who does know a thing or two about pitching, had an equally simple view.
"When your team needs it most," Santana said, "that's when you have to step it up."
Jeff Suppan and Seth McClung did that much for the Brewers on Friday, combining for nine effective innings against an almost-regular Cubs lineup. And they'll look for similar success Saturday from Ben Sheets, who hasn't pitched since enduring right elbow pain on Sept. 17.
The Phillies, meanwhile, received a strong bullpen performance to beat the Nationals, 8-4, to clinch at least a share of the NL East title.
"We have a lot of adrenaline," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "We're so close."
Yet despite their confidence and the Mets' dire situation, nothing is settled -- the Phillies simply own a magic number of one and can clinch the division title with a win Saturday. But as long as the Mets also win Saturday, nothing can be settled in the NL Wild Card race until the season's final day.
And it might even go beyond that. If the Mets and Brewers tie for the NL Wild Card, they would play a one-game tiebreaker at Shea Stadium on Monday afternoon. And if the Mets and Phillies tie -- which would require two Phillies losses -- then those two teams would play a one-game tiebreaker at Citizens Bank Park. Finally, if all three teams tie with the same record, then the Mets and Phillies would play Monday in Philadelphia to determine the NL East champs, with the loser hosting the Brewers on Tuesday to crown a NL Wild Card winner.
The Astros were involved in many of those scenarios, as well, but were officially eliminated Friday when the Brewers won. That leaves only three teams -- the Mets, Phillies and Brewers -- fighting for two remaining spots.
Tropical Storm Kyle could yet play a role in all this, threatening to cancel games throughout the Northeast on Saturday afternoon. If that happens, and a doubleheader is needed Sunday, then the Mets could pitch Santana on four days' rest instead of three, and use Oliver Perez on short rest Sunday -- which they plan on doing regardless.
But such scenarios assume, of course, that Sunday will still hold relevance for the Mets.
"We really, really have put ourselves in a tough spot," Manuel said. "And we're the only ones to blame for that. We had opportunities and didn't get it done."
|2007||Mets||Phillies||Mets' Lead||2008||Mets||Phillies||Mets' Lead|
|9/1||Won @ ATL, 5-1||Lost @ FLA, 12-6||3||9/1||Won @ MIL, 4-2||Lost @ WSH, 7-4||2|
|9/2||Won @ ATL, 3-2||Lost @ FLA, 7-6||4||9/2||Won @ MIL, 6-5||Won @ WSH, 4-0||2|
|9/3||Won @ CIN, 10-4||Lost @ ATL, 5-1||5||9/3||Won @ MIL, 9-2||Lost @ WSH, 9-7||3|
|9/4||Won @ CIN, 11-7||Won @ ATL, 5-2||5||9/4||Off||Off||3|
|9/5||Lost @ CIN, 7-0||Lost @ ATL, 9-8||5||9/5||Lost vs PHI, 3-0||Won @ NYM, 3-0||2|
|9/6||Off||Off||5||9/6||Rain out||Rain out||2|
|9/7||Won vs HOU, 11-3||Lost vs FLA, 6-3||6||9/7||Split DH with PHI||Split DH with NYM||2|
|9/8||Won vs HOU, 3-1||Won vs FLA, 9-1||6||9/8||Off||Won vs FLA, 8-6||1.5|
|9/9||Won vs HOU, 4-1||Won vs FLA, 8-5||6||9/9||Won vs WSH, 10-8||Lost vs FLA, 10-8||2.5|
|9/10||Won vs ATL, 3-2||Won vs COL, 6-5||6||9/10||Won vs WSH, 13-10||Lost vs FLA, 7-3||3.5|
|9/11||Lost vs ATL, 13-5||Lost vs COL, 8-2||6||9/11||Off||Won vs MIL, 6-3||3|
|9/12||Won vs ATL, 4-3||Lost vs COL, 12-0||7||9/12||Rain out||Rain out||3|
|9/13||Off||Won vs COL, 12-4||6.5||9/13||Split DH with ATL||Won vs MIL, 7-3||2.5|
|9/14||Lost vs PHI, 3-2||Won @ NYM, 3-2||5.5||9/14||Lost vs ATL, 7-4||Won DH from MIL||1|
|9/15||Lost vs PHI, 5-3||Won @ NYM, 5-3||4.5||9/15||Lost @ WSH, 7-2||Off||0.5|
|9/16||Lost vs PHI, 10-6||Won @ NYM, 10-6||3.5||9/16||Lost @ WSH, 1-0||Won vs ATL, 8-7||-0.5|
|9/17||Lost @ WSH, 12-4||Won @ STL, 13-11||2.5||9/17||Won @ WSH, 9-7||Won @ ATL, 6-1||-0.5|
|9/18||Lost @ WSH, 9-8||Won @ STL, 7-4||1.5||9/18||Won @ WSH 7-2||Won @ ATL, 4-3||-0.5|
|9/19||Won @ WSH, 8-4||Lost @ STL, 2-1||2.5||9/19||Won @ ATL, 9-5||Lost @ FLA, 14-8||0.5|
|9/20||Lost @ FLA, 8-7||Won @ WSH, 7-6||1.5||9/20||Lost @ ATL, 4-2||Won @ FLA, 3-2||-0.5|
|9/21||Won @ FLA, 9-6||Won @ WSH, 6-3||1.5||9/21||Lost @ ATL, 7-6||Won @ FLA, 5-2||-1.5|
|9/22||Won @ FLA, 7-2||Won @ WSH, 4-1||1.5||9/22||Lost vs. CHC, 9-5||Won vs. ATL, 6-2||-2.5|
|9/23||Won @ FLA, 7-6||Lost @ WSH, 5-3||2.5||9/23||Won vs. CHC, 6-2||Lost vs. ATL, 3-2||-1.5|
|9/24||Lost vs WSH, 13-4||Off||2||9/24||Lost vs. CHC, 9-6||Lost vs. ATL, 10-4||-1.5|
|9/25||Lost vs WSH, 10-9||Lost vs ATL, 10-6||2||9/25||Won vs. CHC, 7-6||Off||-1|
|9/26||Lost vs. WSH, 9-6||Won vs. ATL, 5-2||1||9/26||Lost vs. FLA, 6-1||Won vs. WSH, 8-4||-2|
|9/27||Lost vs STL, 3-0||Won vs ATL, 6-4||Tied||9/27||FLA||WSH|
|9/28||Lost vs FLA, 7-4||Won vs WSH, 6-0||-1||9/28||FLA||WSH|
|9/29||Won vs FLA, 13-0||Lost vs WSH, 4-2||Tied|
|9/30||Lost vs FLA, 8-1||Won vs WSH, 6-1||-1|
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.