MILWAUKEE -- Mets starter Oliver Perez admits he sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him. So after making a throwing error and giving up a homer to Prince Fielder in the first inning Wednesday night, he needed some counseling from his catcher.
"I had to go out there three or four times to talk to him," Ramon Castro said, "because he was too hyper."
Perez calmed down and started throwing his slider for strikes, helping New York beat Milwaukee 8-5 and knocking the Brewers from their perch atop the NL Central for the first time since April 21.
Chicago beat Philadelphia 5-4 Wednesday night, moving the Cubs a fraction of a percentage point (.5377 to .5370) ahead in the division.
"I take it like we're tied the whole way through," Fielder said. "Every game's important, not only the series. I think every game is important."
"It was a tough outing," Vargas said. "It was only two pitches -- two home runs. I missed the spot and I paid."
Except for two relief appearances earlier in the year, it was the shortest outing of the season for Vargas (9-3). He was pulled after giving up seven runs on five hits and a pair of walks in 2 2/3 innings.
"When I started I felt really good," Vargas said. "The second inning I had no control with my pitches, like when I started the game, and that's when I got in trouble."
The Brewers' No. 5 starter is tied for the second-most victories on the staff but has gone more than six innings only once in 19 starts.
"Claudio went out in the first inning and was sharp, but came back out in the second and just couldn't get it going, and from that point on just really struggled," Brewers manager Ned Yost said.
Brewers reliever Manny Parra gave up one run in 6 1/3 innings to limit the damage, but it didn't do much to help an already weary Brewers bullpen.
After giving up five runs -- four earned -- in the first two innings, Perez recovered to record a season-high 11 strikeouts. Perez (10-7) pitched six innings, giving up only two of his five hits after the second.
"He settled in, and he seemed to be a little stronger at the end of the game," said Mets manager Willie Randolph, who pulled Perez after six innings because his pitch count had hit 115.
Perez said he enjoys getting caught up in the game, but sometimes tries to do too much.
"I was trying to forget everything and make a new start," Perez said.
Billy Wagner pitched the ninth for his 25th save in 26 chances.
Even in victory, the Mets marveled at Fielder's home run, which clanged off an advertising sign high in center field for his 31st of the season and first since July 13. The 18 games and 67 at-bats in between were both season highs.
Asked what Fielder's ball looked like from where he was standing, center fielder Anderson said "real small."
Anderson, who was playing his first game in center for the Mets this year, joked about his unfamiliarity with the position but acknowledged there wasn't much he could do with Fielder's ball.
"Superman wouldn't have had it," Anderson said.
Despite the drought, Fielder still leads the National League in home runs.
"That's how baseball is," Fielder said. "You hit a lot and they come in bunches. If I could hit 'em every time I would. It's not that easy."
- The Mets moved right-hander Jorge Sosa to the bullpen, which could eventually make room for Pedro Martinez. Martinez's scheduled minor-league rehab start was rained out on Wednesday, and he is scheduled to throw 45 pitches against hitters from the Mets' Gulf Coast League team on Thursday.
- Cable network SNY drew 436,000 households for Tom Glavine's pursuit of his 300th career victory Tuesday night, a record for a Mets telecast on a New York regional sports network.
- Wednesday night's attendance was announced as 42,058, setting a team record as the 21st sellout of the season. The Brewers had 20 sellouts in 2001, their first season in Miller Park.