So now, the NL East race comes down to this: The Phillies and Mets are tied with one game left.
"I didn't have to say a word," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "They were all saying, 'We'll get them tomorrow. We've done it all year."'
New York beat Florida 13-0 at Shea Stadium to put pressure on the Phillies, who moved into sole possession of first place for the first time Friday night.
If Philadelphia and the Mets are still tied after Sunday, there will be a one-game playoff Monday at Citizens Bank Park to determine the East winner.
Both clubs are still in contention for the wild card with San Diego's 4-3 loss to Milwaukee on Sunday.
With another sellout crowd waving their rally towels and turning the ballpark into a sea of red, the Phillies had a chance to control their playoff destiny.
But Ryan Howard's 46th homer wasn't enough offense, and the defense was shaky.
Now, it's up to 44-year-old Jamie Moyer, who faces Jason Bergmann and the spoiler-minded Nationals on Sunday afternoon. Washington swept a three-game series in New York earlier this week, and could knock the Phillies out with one more win.
"The way this team has battled the entire season, to have it come down to the final day, it's fun," Howard said.
For a while, Chico (7-9) pitched more like Tom Glavine in his prime than a rookie with a 4.63 ERA against the league's highest-scoring offense. The left-hander departed after Aaron Rowand homered leading off the seventh to cut it to 4-1. Chico allowed one run and four hits.
Glavine, the 300-game winner, will start the Mets' finale against Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins.
"It was a fun atmosphere to play in," Chico said.
Jon Rauch came in and retired pinch-hitter Shane Victorino on a popup and Jimmy Rollins on a grounder to end the threat. Not even the Phillie Phanatic doing his usual dance on the dugout and trying to put a hex on the pitcher could get the rally going.
Howard homered off Rauch with two outs in the eighth to cut it to 4-2. Chad Cordero pitched a perfect ninth for his 37th save in 46 chances.
"He mixed it up well and kept us off balance," Howard said of Chico.
It seems fitting a team that started 4-11, endured numerous key injuries and was counted out several times will make its long-suffering fans sweat out a long-awaited playoff berth. The Phils haven't made it since winning the pennant in 1993. And that playoff run ended with Joe Carter's infamous homer to clinch the World Series for Toronto.
In 2005, the Phillies were eliminated on the final day. Last year, they were knocked out on the next-to-last day of the season.
Philadelphia was seven games behind the Mets after losing to Colorado on Sept. 12, but is 12-4 since.
"We're not down," Howard said. "These games happen."
Starter Adam Eaton (10-10) lasted just 2 1/3 innings, allowing one run, five hits and two walks in probably his last appearance of the season for the Phillies.
Signed to a $24.5 million, three-year free-agent deal last offseason, Eaton was a bust. He has a 6.29 ERA and likely would be left off the postseason roster if Philly advances.
Eaton allowed an RBI double to Ryan Zimmerman in the first to put the Phillies in an early 1-0 hole. He got in trouble in the second after getting the first two outs, but retired Ronnie Belliard on a foul pop to leave the bases loaded.
Left fielder Pat Burrell made a shoestring catch on a sinking liner by Dmitri Young in the third to temporarily bail out Eaton. After Austin Kearns singled to put two runners on, Manuel had seen enough.
"I didn't want it to get away from us," Manuel said.
Manuel then turned to Kyle Lohse, who pitched seven strong innings to beat Atlanta on Wednesday. Pitching on his side day, Lohse tossed two scoreless innings before having problems in the seventh. He came out with one out and runners on the corners.
J.C. Romero nearly got out of the jam, but first baseman Howard couldn't handle Young's squibber, a run scored and everyone was safe. Zimmerman scored from third to make it 4-0 after catcher Ruiz's throwing error to center following a wild pitch that allowed pinch-runner Justin Maxwell to advance from first.
It would be Lohse's turn to pitch Monday if there was a tiebreaker game.
"If I can get one out to help the team, I'll do it," he said.
- Moyer is the only member of the Phillies' original starting rotation not to spend time on the disabled list this season.
- Lohse allowed two runs -- one earned -- in 2 1/3 innings.
- The Nationals clinched fourth place in the East.