After beating the Marlins, 2-0, riding Johan Santana to a most inspirational victory, the Mets drew into a tie for the National League Wild Card lead when the Brewers lost their game with the Cubs, 7-3. The Phillies clinched the NL East by beating the Nationals, 4-3, but the Mets were simply happy to be still alive.
"I knew the situation was a tough one," Santana said after firing a three-hitter against the Marlins. "There might be no tomorrow."
So Santana and his teammates -- but mostly just Santana -- ensured that there would be at least one more today, and possibly even two. If the Mets and Brewers both win or lose today, then they would play a one-game tiebreaker at Shea Stadium on Monday to determine the NL Wild Card winner. If the Mets win, they would then travel to Chicago later that night in preparation for the NL Division Series against the Cubs. If Milwaukee wins, it would travel to Philadelphia to face the Phillies.
"For Johan to step up and to make a win out of two runs, that was big for us," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "So hopefully, we can score a few more runs [today]."
The Mets completed perhaps their finest game on Saturday, even while absorbing a loss. The Phillies, behind Brad Lidge's 41st save in 41 chances, beat the Nationals to clinch the NL East crown. They will host either the Brewers or Dodgers on Wednesday in the first game of the NLDS.
But the Mets remained far more interested in the Brewers, who were blocking an easier route to the postseason. Even if the Mets had won each of their final two games, they needed the Brewers to lose at least once in order to advance. It was possible, if not probable, that such a scenario might occur, and so most Mets players remained glued to the television long after their own game ended.
Manager Jerry Manuel intended to drive home after his game and slouch in front of the television, promising to "watch the bottom line" for an update or two. Yet even he was still around when Mike Fontenot hit a two-run single in the third inning, giving the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
|"I'm going to do whatever I can do to get in. That's why I'm here."|
|-- Brewers ace CC Sabathia, on Sunday's start|
The Brewers eventually lost, giving the Mets back their own neatly wrapped destiny. So today, for both teams, has become the most significant day of the season.
"It's been a roller-coaster ride," Brewers manager Dale Sveum said. "But when we started, if somebody said, 'If you're tied after Game 161, would you take it?' Thirty teams would have done that."
The Mets will start Oliver Perez on three days' rest, which was the whole point of using Santana on short rest on Saturday. Though he wasn't sure if Santana could handle the workload, Manuel never had any qualms about using Perez on short rest. And so he will face a Marlins team led by lefty Scott Olsen, still hungry to knock out the Mets for a second straight year.
The Brewers, meanwhile, will turn to their ace, CC Sabathia, for a third consecutive start on three days' rest. Sabathia has been perhaps the greatest reason why Milwaukee is still alive in the playoff chase, firing seven innings of one-run ball just four days prior to the season finale.
"I'm going to do whatever I can do to get in," Sabathia said before his last start. "That's why I'm here."
First pitch of the game in Milwaukee is scheduled for 55 minutes after first pitch at Shea, meaning the Brewers will have a better idea than the Mets of where they stand. But ask them and they'll say that hardly matters. Both teams know that as long as they win, they'll survive for at least another day.
The Mets will be saddled with an even greater burden, knowing that they will be playing in the last regular-season game in Shea Stadium history. But if they win, it could provide the most fitting end possible to 44 years of baseball at the ballpark.
"It would be a great way to send this stadium off, with a win and a playoff berth at the last possible game at Shea," Manuel said. "I would be really surprised if we aren't walking on a cloud [today]. There are going to be some tremendous former players here and a tremendous history. It's a great opportunity."
|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||Won vs. FLA, 2-0||Won vs. WSH, 4-3||-2|
|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.