PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves were mathematically eliminated from the playoff race tonight with a 6-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
After 159 games, the Phillies are finally atop the division standings -- albeit tied with the free-falling New York Mets.
Ryan Howard hit his 44th homer, Pat Burrell also connected and the Phillies roughed up John Smoltz, before hanging on for a 6-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves tonight.
The collapsing Mets lost 3-0 to Saint Louis to drop into a tie with Philadelphia (87-72) for first place. Both teams have three games left. The Phillies host Washington, which is coming off a three-game sweep at Shea Stadium. The Mets host Florida.
Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeira hit consecutive homers for the Braves. After falling short in the final weekend the last two seasons, the Phillies could be heading to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
Meanwhile, Atlanta is going home for the second straight year after winning an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles.
Desperate to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, the Braves got a poor performance from an unlikely source. Smoltz (14-8) gave up six runs -- five earned -- and seven hits, striking out eight in four innings. It was his shortest outing since going 3 1-3 innings on May 29th, and only the fourth time in 32 starts he allowed more than three earned runs.
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