PHILADELPHIA -- While Jason Michaels was talking about what flashed through his mind as he barreled toward a tight play at the plate, he may as well have been analyzing the NL playoff race.
"Well, this is going to be close. This is going to come down to it," he said.
Just like Michaels, the Phillies can only hope to make it safely at the end.
Bobby Abreu's tiebreaking double scored Michaels in the seventh inning and lifted Philadelphia to a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
The Phillies took two of three from the Pirates and start their season-high 12-game, 14-day road trip Monday with a three-game series in San Francisco.
The Phillies remained a half-game ahead of Houston in the NL wild-card race and are only 3½ games behind the Braves in the NL East.
"We want to win this division. We've said it all along," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Ryan Madson (6-4) earned the win, striking out two and allowing no hits in 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Ugueth Urbina pitched a scoreless eighth and Billy Wagner worked the ninth for his 30th save in 32 chances.
Michaels singled in the seventh off Rick White (3-6). Abreu then ripped a double to right and second baseman Jose Castillo was on target with his relay throw, but Michaels made a crashing, sweeping slide around catcher Ryan Doumit and scored the go-ahead run for a 4-3 lead.
"I just wanted to keep my head down and go," Michaels said. "That was a big hit there by Bobby. Huge."
Said Abreu: "When I have the opportunity to change the game, I'm going to try and do it."
The 27-year-old Brito gave the Phillies an unexpected lift in his first start, breezing through the first four innings, throwing 46 effective pitches. The lefty worked fast and consistently got his fastball over for strikes.
"I felt like the kid did pretty good," Manuel said.
Brito, making the spot start because a doubleheader affected the rotation, showed some poise in the fifth when he got Freddy Sanchez to hit into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded to end the inning.
"I just relaxed myself and tried to be in control," Brito said.
Brito was called up Aug. 5, but hadn't appeared in a game. His last appearance came July 30 while pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Signed as a free agent by the Phillies in 1998, he was a reliever for most of his minor-league career until this season.
He tossed three-hit ball over five innings and his only walk was intentional. His lone mistake came when he gave up Brad Eldred's sixth homer leading off the second.
"He threw the ball well for a guy making his debut and not pitching for a while," Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson said. "I think he'll really help them down the stretch."
The Phillies hope Brito can give them a boost -- as a spot starter or in the bullpen -- as they try to make the postseason for the first time since 1993.
They could use another lefty in the bullpen with the way Cormier has let them down this year. He faltered again in the sixth, letting Pittsburgh tie the game at 3 on four hits, including RBI singles by Jason Bay and Castillo, in just one-third of an inning.
Cormier's ERA jumped from 5.36 to 5.74, he's allowed 51 hits in 42 1/3 innings and has been the weak link in an otherwise solid 'pen. He was booed off the mound when Manuel removed him.
"It's just one of those things that happened, but at the same time, we battled to come back," Cormier said.
The Phillies took a 2-1 lead in the fourth off Pirates starter Mark Redman on Pat Burrell's two-run homer, his 24th of the season. Chase Utley followed with a double and eventually scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-1.
Redman gave up three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
- Bay was in the lineup after leaving Saturday night's game with a bruised ribcage.
- Phillies 3B David Bell robbed Eldred of a hit in the fourth with a leaping snag of a line drive.
- Brito was the first left-handed starting pitcher to make his debut with the Phillies since Randy Wolf in 1999.
- Wagner reached 30 saves for the sixth time in his career and first since he had 44 in 2003.