The final weekend of the season, the Phillies had hoped, would be a celebration to honor Ryan Howard as he plays his final games in Philadelphia.
Someone forgot to tell the New York Mets.
The Mets used Friday night's 5-1 win over the Phils to inch closer to clinching a National League wild-card berth. They left the field needing St. Louis to lose at home on Friday in a game that started an hour after the Phillies and Mets. A Mets win on Saturday would also clinch the wild card.
It was hard to distinguish on Friday if the fans were booing or screaming "Bruccceee" after Jay Bruce homered in the seventh to put the Mets ahead by a pair of runs. Citizens Bank Park was flooded with Mets fans - reminiscent of when Phillies fans traveled to Washington in 2010 to see their team clinch a division title. The night belonged to the Mets.
The Phillies have lost seven of their last eight games. Losses on Saturday and Sunday would send him into the offseason on a seven-game losing streak, which would be the second-worst losing streak to end a season in franchise history.
"We're certainly limping home," manager Pete Mackanin said.
Howard, who will play again on Saturday and Sunday, crushed a double in the second inning. He was greeted with a standing ovation and smoked the first pitch he saw to center field. Howard thought it was gone as he turned his bat and stood for a moment at home plate. The night's cold wind kept it in the ballpark and the ball caromed off the wall. The crowd roared and the reactions will only grow during the weekend as Howard's tenure comes to a close.
"He's hard to gauge," Mackanin said. "He keeps everything close to the vest. He doesn't show a lot of emotion. He's been asked if he has feelings of nostalgia and he said no, he's just out here to play and I think he's just taking it as a professional and playing the games one at a time. He's just going to play games and try to hit."
Howard's double was followed by a sacrifice fly from Cameron Rupp, which brought home Maikel Franco. The Phillies had an early lead and looked set to play spoilers. But that was all they could do. The Phillies struck out 14 times. Freddy Galvis left the game in the seventh with tightness in his right hamstring. The Phillies may opt to sit him for the season's final two games.
Alec Asher allowed three runs and pitched into the seventh inning in his final start of the season. The righthander struck out four batters and walked none. He gave up five hits and was bailed out by hard-hit outs. Asher turns 25 on Tuesday and will compete for a spot in next season's starting rotation. Asher allowed three runs or fewer in each of his five starts this season after allowing 30 earned runs last season in 29 innings.
"I think it's going to be a healthy competition, just kind of like it was this year," Asher said. "We've got a lot of young talented pitchers. So all we can really do is just focus on us and go about our own business and try to make the team."
The Mets loaded the bases in the eighth with one out. Yoenis Cespedes checked his swing with two strikes, which sent Mackanin out of the dugout as it appeared that Cespedes had swung. First base umpire Will Little wasted little time ejecting the manager.
"I had to get thrown out there," Mackanin said. "I told them umpire that I can't believe when the bat goes forward like that that he didn't swing. If he would've hung onto it, he probably would've broke his wrist. I thought he made the wrong call."
It took Mackanin 160 games this season to be ejected. The inning continued, Cespedes popped up to first base and Howard lost the ball in the wind. It landed a few feet from Howard, bouncing directly off first base and bringing home another Mets run. The fans that packed behind the visiting dugout roared again. There was champagne waiting to be uncorked.