NEW YORK - It might be Ryan Howard to the rescue for the Philadelphia Phillies.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said after the Phillies' 6-5 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday night that the star first baseman could return to Philadelphia today.
David Wright singled off Jonathan Papelbon with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in the latest loss for the National League East's last place team.
"That's very exciting," Hunter Pence said. "That's awesome. I look forward to seeing him."
Amaro said it depends on how Howard feels after his rehabilitation game for triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday night (see story below).
The Phillies hope Howard, out all season after sustaining an Achilles injury in his series-ending at-bat against St. Louis in the first round of the NL playoffs last year, will give a boost to a team that has lost seven of eight and stumbled into last in the division.
Cole Hamels outlasted Dickey in a matchup of All-Stars that fizzled from the start. Hounded by recent trade rumors, Hamels pitched seven gritty innings and had two hits. But the Phillies' suspect bullpen couldn't finish off the win after beating the Mets on Wednesday night.
Ike Davis began the ninth with a double off Papelbon (2-3). Thole sacrificed pinch-runner Ronny Cedeno to third before Kirk Nieuwenhuis struck out. Papelbon then hit Jordany Valdespin with a 3-2 pitch and walked Ruben Tejada on a full-count to load the bases.
Daniel Murphy then hit a sharp shot off Papelbon's glove and leg. It deflected back to the first-base line and everyone was safe.
"The way I look at it, this one's on me," Papelbon said. "The team went out and grinded as hard as it could."
Wright hit a soft liner that landed in front of a charging right fielder Pence to set off a wild celebration on the field and in the stands.
Dickey pumped his fist in the dugout and Justin Turner smashed a pie in Wright's face during a postgame interview as fans chanted "MVP!" for Wright.
"I think I had the worst at-bat that anybody had that inning," Wright said.
The Phillies fell to 3-9 in games decided in the last at-bat.
"It might sound like an old cliche, but the game is never over 'til it's over, like Yogi (Berra) said," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "You try to stay even keel. You come out the next day and chip away."
Mets catcher Josh Thole prevented a run in the eighth when he held on to the ball despite being barreled over at home plate. Murphy lined a shot off Papelbon's leg for the tying run with two outs in the ninth, setting the stage for Wright.
Bobby Parnell (2-1) pitched the ninth for the Mets, winners of six of eight.
Wright hit a two-run homer in the fifth that gave the Mets a brief 4-3 lead and had an RBI single in the third.
Papelbon blew just his second save in 20 chances this season.
Philadelphia tried to add on a run in the eighth when Mike Fontenot attempted to score on pinch-hitter Chase Utley's single to left. But Thole caught the throw from left fielder Scott Hairston, braced himself and held onto the ball when he was slammed into by Fontenot.
Dickey matched a career high by allowing 11 hits, and perhaps gave National League manager Tony La Russa reason to end the debate over whether the knuckleballer should start the All-Star game. In his shaky final start before the break, Dickey gave up five runs - but still avoided a loss. He hasn't lost since April 13 at Atlanta.
"I didn't show a lot of consistency early on," Dickey said. "It seemed like they fed off that and waited on pitches. In a case like that you have to build off of when you don't have your best stuff."
Juan Pierre pushed a bunt up the first-base line to score Rollins with the tiebreaking run in the sixth inning after Wright put New York ahead 4-3 in the fifth with a two-out, two-run homer.
Dickey is coming off one of the best months in baseball history. In winning the NL pitcher of the month award for June, he went 5-0 with an 0.93 ERA and had consecutive one-hitters.
His July got off to a rocky start.
Jimmy Rollins, who was a homer shy of the cycle, walked leading off and, after two outs, Dickey hit his potential All-Star batterymate Carlos Ruiz with a pitch. Shane Victorino, a switch-hitter batting from the right side against the righty, lined an RBI single to center field for the first run against Dickey in the first inning this year.
Rollins reached base five times.
The last time these two All-Star pitchers faced each other - in 2010 - Hamels had the Phillies' only hit off Dickey. This time, Hamels popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt in the second inning but beat it out for a single because Dickey was slow to react and his throw to first was late. Rollins then hit an RBI double.
Hairston hit his fifth home run in his 27th at-bat against Hamels, a leadoff shot in the second to pull the Mets to 2-1. Wright's RBI single an inning later tied it.
But the Phillies kept on connecting against Dickey and Pence had a run-scoring single in the fourth.
Hamels' second hit led to two runs in the sixth. He scored on Rollins' triple. Pierre's bunt gave the Phillies a 5-4 lead.