NEW YORK - The Phillies came to Citi Field with the intentions of putting some distance between them and the Mets in the NL East race in a three-game series that began tonight.
The Phillies appeared to have the Mets where they wanted them, aside from the gifted left arm of Johan Santana, the National League's premier pitcher so far this season.
The Mets had a watered-down lineup without injured Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado and they're also missing setup man J.J. Putz. Besides, they hadn't exactly inspired confidence in their followers during a recently completed road trip that saw them get swept by the Pirates and go 2-4.
But Santana ambushed the Phillies with his bat and his glove in the Mets' 6-5 win, which cut the Phils' lead over them to two games.
Santana erased a 4-3 Phils lead in the sixth with a run-scoring double off Clay Condrey, then speared a wicked line drive by Shane Victorino and turned it into an inning-ending double play in the seventh.
For the most part, the Phillies solved Santana, raking him for home runs by Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Only once before in his career had Santana been pounded for four homers.
J.A. Happ's fledgling career as a starter was on a modest but smooth trajectory when he took the mound for the Phillies.
In the three starts since he nudged Chan Ho Park out of the rotation, the 26-year-old lefthander had every right to feel good about himself after seven innings of scoreless pitching in San Diego that jump-started the Phillies' road trip with a win eight days ago.
Tonight, the trajectories belonged to the Mets, who went into the game with a paltry 34 homers for the season but hit two off Happ. But Happ showed some grit by making enough quality pitches to hand a 4-3 lead to Condrey with one out in the sixth inning. Effective for most of the season, Condrey was of little help. He gave up run-scoring hits to Santana, who smacked a double down the right-field line, and to Alex Cora as the Mets pulled in front, 5-4.
David Wright had gone 100 at bats without a homer before he ripped a 1-2 fastball into the left-field seats in the second inning for his fourth of the season. It was the second-longest homer drought of his career. His last one came against Jamie Moyer on May 7. Wright's homer came after Happ had retired the first four batters, and it seemed to immediately knock him out of rhythm. He wriggled out of a self-induced jam in the rest of the second, and after Carlos Beltran drilled a two-run homer in the third, Happ gave up a walk, a double to Wright, and an intentional walk to load the bases with one out.
A visit from pitching coach Rich Dubee ensued, and Happ was on the edge. He survived the inning. But with Happ's pitch count at 106, Charlie Manuel sent for Condrey with one out and a runner on first in the sixth. Manuel wanted the righthanded Condrey to face the righthanded-hitting Cora. The strategy backfired.
The Phillies began as if they were going to go down meekly against Santana. They were swinging early in the count and spraying pop-ups all over the field. Then they did what they do best - they played long ball.
Howard and Ibanez hit back-to-back homers in the fourth, the third time the Phils have done it this season. Howard's homer was the 195th of his career, moving him into a tie for eighth place with Bobby Abreu on the club's all-time list.
In the sixth, Rollins, who gets booed regularly by Mets fans, hit a two-run homer with two outs, and it was 4-3 Phils.