PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia's on-again, off-again wild-card push is back on.
Seemingly out of the playoff picture on July 30 after trading Bobby Abreu as part of a roster overhaul, the Phillies began the day only 2½ games behind Cincinnati in the NL wild-card race and showed some life against the best team in the league.
"The last couple of weeks have been pretty fun because we've tightened up the defense and got good starting pitching," Coste said.
Philadelphia lost two of three to the Reds last weekend, but took the first three games of this four-game set with sharp pitching and big hits. The Phillies thumped the Mets by a combined 24-4 score in the first two games of the series -- hardly indicative of a team that trails NL East-leading New York by 12 games.
"I think right now we're playing really good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We come to the ballpark wanting to play."
Lieber (5-9) was terrific, putting together his third straight solid start since an awful outing against Florida on the day of the trade deadline. He scattered five hits, walked none and struck out four for his second complete game this season and first shutout since May 24, 2001, with the Chicago Cubs. He went 20-6 that season.
Lieber threw 72 of his 101 pitches for strikes Wednesday in a game that took only 2 hours, 3 minutes. Cory Lidle tossed the last shutout for the Phillies on Sept. 24, 2004, also against the Mets.
"We didn't quit on ourselves," Lieber said. "We went out there and kept battling like we needed."
Hours after the Mets put ace Pedro Martinez on the disabled list with a strained right calf, Tom Glavine (12-6) gave the sagging rotation and tired bullpen a boost with an effective seven-inning stint.
Martinez went only one inning in the first game of the series and Orlando Hernandez was roughed up for 11 runs in four innings on Tuesday. Martinez was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a minor strain in his right calf, a move manager Willie Randolph called a "precaution."
After the Phillies scored a combined 10 runs in the first inning of the last two games, Glavine retired the side in order to start this one. The offensive damage was only delayed an inning.
Glavine hit Ryan Howard with a pitch to open the second and, three batters later, Coste hit his fifth homer into the second row of the left-field seats. Coste also doubled and singled.
"We're going to hit," Coste said. "We may not be the best lineup in the league, but right now we're pretty good. But it's going to come down to the starting pitching essentially."
Glavine allowed six hits, three runs and lost his second straight start.
Lieber cruised with the early run support. Only once did he allow a baserunner to reach second, and that was in the fourth inning.
"This is probably the strongest our rotation has been this year," Manuel said.
Two starts ago in a losing effort, Lieber tossed a complete game against the Mets. He blew the game in that one when his fielding error helped turn a two-run lead into a one-run loss.
"We couldn't do much with him tonight," Randolph said. "It was almost a perfect ballgame."
Light-hitting Abraham Nunez added a sacrifice fly off Glavine in the sixth, helping the Phillies improve to 19-13 since the All-Star break.
"I think there's definitely a different type of energy in this clubhouse," Lieber said. "It kind of reminds me of last year."
But last year's team finished a game behind Houston in the wild-card race. This year's Phillies want to finish the job.
"I think there's a shot," Coste said.
- RHP Heath Bell was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take Martinez's spot on the roster.
- The only time in Phillies history they scored four-plus runs in the first inning in three straight games was July 20-23, 1889.
- The Phillies send Scott Mathieson to the mound Thursday to try to complete a four-game sweep.