PHILADELPHIA — Ryan Howard took a big cut, the ball soared off his bat and he paused to admire his shot like he’s done for so many of his 381 career homers.
A stiff wind turned this one into a double but the Big Piece has two more games left to go deep once more.
Howard started his final series with the Phillies by going 1 for 4 and the New York Mets moved closer to securing a wild-card berth with a 5-1 win over Philadelphia on Friday night.
Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, is the last player remaining from the 2008 World Series championship team. The Phillies plan to pay him a $10 million buyout rather than exercise a $25 million option for 2017.
“He’s business as usual,” manager Pete Mackanin said of Howard. “I think somewhere down the road it’ll hit him and he’ll have that nostalgia, but right now he’s all business.”
Jay Bruce homered for the third straight game and drove in three runs, and Robert Gsellman threw six sharp innings to lead the Mets.
The defending NL champions reduced their magic number to one. The Mets began the night atop the wild-card race, with San Francisco one game back and St. Louis two behind.
Phillies starter Alec Asher (2-1) gave up three runs and five hits in six innings.
“I’ve pitched like I know,” Asher said. “I just want to carry it on to next year the way I’ve been doing. I know there’s stuff I can work on, but I think I’m going in the right direction.”
Asher retired the first 11 batters before he ran into trouble with two outs in the fourth when Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson hit consecutive singles.
Bruce and T.J. Rivera followed with back-to-back RBI singles for a 2-1 lead.
More Mets fans were inside a half-empty ballpark on a wet, chilly night in Philadelphia. The blue-and-orange faithful screamed “Let’s Go Mets” and their “Bruuuuuce” chants drowned out boos from Phillies fans.
Bruce connected in the seventh, sending his 33rd homer the opposite-way to left field. The Mets added two runs, including another RBI single by Bruce.
Earlier in the inning, Howard let Cespedes’ infield pop fall untouched near the first-base bag, allowing a runner to score from third.
Howard hit a double to deep center his first time up. Cameron Rupp’s sacrifice fly followed Howard’s double and put the Phillies ahead 1-0.
Bruce is 10 for 20 with four homers and eight RBIS in his last six games. … Mets are 15-2 after an off day. … Mets tied a franchise record with 106 homers on the road. They already have a franchise-best 217 homers.
Mackanin was ejected for the first time this season in the eighth inning by first baseman umpire Will Little. Mackanin perhaps thought Cespedes swung at an inside pitch from Michael Mariot and was tossed once he walked onto the field.
Phillies: SS Freddy Galvis left the game because of tightness in his right hamstring.
Mackanin emerged from a long meeting with coaches and front-office executives hopeful the team will add a veteran hitter in the offseason. “I would like to get a good solid proven hitter somewhere on the field,” he said. “Where that is right now will be determined by who is available and what kind of a deal, if any, they could make.”
RHP Bartolo Colon (14-8, 3.42 ERA) starts for the Mets against RHP Phil Klein (0-1, 8.22) for the Phillies. Colon is 10-5 vs. Philadelphia.