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Stayin' alive: Phils defeat Nats, hope for help Sunday

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Down a game with one to play, the Philadelphia
Phillies will have to win and hope for help.

Chase Utley homered twice, Ryan Howard hit an upper-deck shot
and a three-run double, and Philadelphia beat the Washington
Nationals 8-4 Saturday to send the NL wild-card chase down to Game
162.

"We've got to keep going," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel
said. "We've got one more game in the regular season, and we've
got to win tomorrow. That's all."

Philadelphia (87-74) trails Houston (88-73) by one game; the
Astros stayed ahead by beating the Cubs 3-1 Saturday. A Houston
victory Sunday would give it the league's final playoff spot, no
matter what Philadelphia does.

"The scoreboard is very hard not to look at. It's sitting right
up there in front of you. I find myself just kind of staring at
it," Manuel said. "They can cut it off if they want to, but then
I'd probably ask somebody to go up there and see what the scores of
the games are."

Jon Lieber (16-13) is scheduled to start Sunday for Philadelphia
against Hector Carrasco (5-3), a career reliever making his fifth
start of 2005.

If the Phillies and Astros finish tied, they would meet in a
one-game playoff Monday at Philadelphia. The Phillies last reached
the postseason in 1993.

"They're a talented enough team to play in the playoffs. They
look like they're at the top of their game right now," Nationals
manager Frank Robinson said.

Brett Myers (13-8) had a career-high 12 strikeouts while
limiting Washington to three runs on six hits over 6 2-3 innings.
He departed with runners on the corners after David Bell's fielding
error, but reliever Ryan Madson got Jamey Carroll to ground out.

Myers got ahead of hitters, throwing 86 of his 127 pitches for
strikes.

"Everybody coming back to the dugout was just like, 'Wow,"
said Washington outfielder Ryan Church, whose solo shot leading off
the second was his first homer since June 18.

Madson, Aaron Fultz, Ugueth Urbina and Billy Wagner got the
final seven outs, five by strikeout. The Nationals struck out a
season-high 17 times.

The Phillies, meanwhile, kept tacking on runs, much to the
delight of the sizable contingent of fans wearing white Ps instead
of Ws on their red hats. By the sound of things, thousands made the
two-hour drive south from Philadelphia: Big hits for the visiting
team were greeted with various chants, from "Let's go, Phillies!"
to "E-A-G-L-E-S! Eagles!"

As well as Myers pitched, and as poor as Washington's offense
has been, the outcome was nearly settled in the top of the first.
Philadelphia got to John Patterson (9-7) for four runs, the biggest
hit being Howard's bases-loaded double off the wall.

"They were on me from the beginning," Patterson said.

Jimmy Rollins slapped a double just inside the bag at first on
the game's first pitch to extend his hitting streak to 35 games,
tied for the ninth-longest in major league history. Kenny Lofton
singled Rollins home, and after Patterson walked two to load the
bases, Howard came through.

Patterson retired 12 of the next 13 batters, until Lofton
singled in the fifth ahead of Utley's two-run homer to straightaway
center, his 27th home run. Utley added No. 28 on a solo shot off
Joey Eischen.

Howard hit his 22nd homer -- tops among rookies -- not far from
the spot in the right-field upper deck that Barry Bonds reached
last month. Howard dropped his bat and stood by the plate, admiring
his drive.

"We definitely knew Ryan Howard was a slugger," Rollins said.
"He's definitely proven that now that he's getting a chance to
play."

Patterson allowed seven runs and seven hits over 5 2-3 innings.
He was among the league leaders with a 2.38 ERA on Aug. 19, but
after going 2-3 with a 5.29 ERA over his final eight starts, he
finishes at 3.13.

"Just didn't finish strong," Patterson said.

The same could be said of the Nationals. They reached the
season's midpoint at 50-31 but enter Sunday 81-80 and needing a
victory to finish with a winning record a year after going 67-95 as
the Expos.

"We want to win tomorrow," Robinson said. "We'll go out and
approach it that way, and hopefully we can get one."

Game notes
Nationals LHP John Halama's left palm was bruised by a shot
off Lofton's bat in the sixth inning. ... Washington has lost 12 of
its last 14 home games, including five straight. ... Nationals 3B
Ryan Zimmerman made a terrific stop on a hard shot by Bell and
threw him out in the seventh.