for this game

Schneider delivers blow to Phillies' postseason hopes

Sep 29, 2006 - 6:32 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- A lengthy rain delay looked like it put the Philadelphia Phillies to sleep. Brian Schneider may have put their postseason hopes to sleep as well.

Schneider snapped a sixth-inning tie with a two-run single and Ryan Church homered to lead the Washington Nationals to a 3-1 victory over the Phillies, who desperately needed a win to keep pace in the National League wild card race.

After the 4 1/2-hour delay, the Phillies (83-76) could not muster any offense against Mike O'Connor and four relievers, dropping them two games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers with three games remaining at Florida. Los Angeles, which beat Colorado, 19-11, earlier Thursday, closes its season with three games in San Francisco.

"It wasn't from lack of effort because the guys on the bench were screaming and hollering and everything, but we just didn't get it done," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We're two down with three to go, and I've seen stranger things. We can play it out. Our heart (is) still beating, but it's getting there."

After losing three of their last four games, the Phillies will try to sweep the Marlins this weekend. They might be excused if they have one eye on the scoreboard to check on the contest between the Dodgers and the Giants.

"Of course, we need somebody to beat the team we're trying to catch, but at the same time, we've got to stay on them," Manuel said. "We've got to go down there and sweep them or at least win the first one and see what happens."

Washington opened the sixth with three consecutive singles against Philadelphia starter Jon Lieber. After Jose Vidro lined out, Schneider laced reliever Aaron Fultz's 1-2 pitch to right field to break a 1-1 tie. The lefthanded-hitting catcher is 9-for-15 in his last four games.

"I never quit," Schneider said.

Church opened the scoring in the second inning with his ninth homer of the season and first since September 2 to help the Nationals win the season series against the Phillies, 10-9.

"It's not that you want to play a role in keeping them out," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "What you want to do is play them hard. That's our duty."

After O'Connor gave up an unearned run and three hits in five innings, Billy Traber (4-3) allowed one hit in the sixth to pick up the win. Two relievers bridged the gap to Jon Rauch, who retired the side in order in the ninth for his second save of the season.

Lieber (9-11) was reached for three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 frames while extending his streak of not issuing a walk to 35 1/3 innings.

"Obviously, it does (stink) to wait that long, but it had no effect whatsoever," Lieber said of the rain delay. "You can't sit there and (moan) and complain about we should have had this and we should have had that. It just didn't work out for us here."

"We're just not hitting. It's simple as that," said Philadelphia's Pat Burrell, who had one of his team's five singles. "It's not over, but we've got a long night ahead of us and a big game tomorrow. Anything can happen. We've just got to keep going out and playing. Florida (is) a good team, but we've got to dig down deep. It's that time."

An error by rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in the fifth inning allowed Philadelphia to score its lone run.

"If it so happens that we don't make the playoffs, I think you can go a lot further back at why we didn't," Phillies catcher Chris Coste said. "We've done a good job of putting ourselves back in the race and it's certainly not over yet."

Although the announced attendance was a season-low 18,324, only a few hundred spectators remained in RFK Stadium by the time the game ended. Most of those who stayed were Philadelphia fans.

"When we walked out of the dugout, as each guy came on the field, we got a huge round of applause," Coste said. "It was a pretty cool feeling that many people from Philadelphia or Philadelphia fans were here, especially through that rain delay. They knew they were going to be here late, so it definitely was a pretty good moment."

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