WASHINGTON (AP) -- Preston Wilson raised his right arm as he left the plate in the bottom of the 12th inning, running while his blooper dropped into right field to score Jose Guillen with the winning run.
It had been quite some time since the Nationals won like that, quite some time since they looked so happy as a group.
"We haven't had any dramatic wins -- not one -- in the second half," manager Frank Robinson said.
"You almost could have pulled the plug on the life support," Robinson said. "It probably would have been pretty close to the season, really."
Instead, Washington moved within three games of wild-card leader Philadelphia, with a chance to cut that to two in the series finale Sunday. The Nationals also moved past the Mets for fourth place in the NL East.
"You know, we can make a game interesting," said first baseman Brad Wilkerson, who made a key throw home for a forceout to help reliever Gary Majewski get out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 11th.
Wilson's hit off Aquilino Lopez (0-1) -- after Guillen walked, then advanced on a passed ball -- made a winner of Hector Carrasco
(4-3). He threw a perfect 12th, although Bobby Abreu hit a drive to center field that Wilson caught with his back against the wall.
"I thought that might go," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Before the game, Robinson said for the first time that he didn't think his club could win the division title, and he didn't sound too optimistic about the wild card, either. Bemoaning the team's poor record since early July and a sudden dip in clubhouse
chemistry, Robinson sighed and said, "Seemed like just yesterday we were having fun."
But Washington pulled out a win right when things looked bleakest.
The Nationals scored two runs in the first off Eude Brito, who
was making his second major-league start, and two unearned runs in the eighth off reliever Ryan Madson. So Cordero needed three outs to notch what would have been his franchise-record 44th save.
Instead, he blew a save for the fifth time this season, allowing three straight hits to start the inning -- Pat Burrell's single, and the homers.
"He's picked us up all year," Wilson said about Cordero. "It's time for us to pick him up a little bit."
Said Bell: "You always feel like you're going to win, especially after you come back and tie it like that."
Cordero's slip-up wasted a solid start by John Patterson, who rebounded from his shortest outing of the season to limit Philadelphia to one run and five hits over 7 2/3 innings.
Patterson allowed Burrell's 28th homer in the second inning, struck out eight and walked one. After giving up two-out hits in the eighth to Jimmy Rollins and Kenny Lofton -- putting runners at second and third -- the right-hander was lifted and walked off to a standing ovation.
Left-hander Joey Eischen came on and promptly walked Chase Utley
to load the bases. But Eischen struck out Abreu on three pitches. After their power display in the ninth, the Phillies wasted another good chance in the 11th.
"The game was there for us," Manuel said, "and tonight we couldn't do it."
The Nationals did, winning the kind of close game that they excelled at early in the season but have been losing since the All-Star break, hastening their slide down the standings.
"If we lost that game, it was going to be a different atmosphere here tomorrow," Guillen said. "I don't know where we were going to go from there."
Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson left in the third inning with a bruised right heel, aggravating an injury that put him on the DL for most of July. He jammed the heel on first base running out a groundout in the second. ... The Phillies have hit back-to-back homers six times this season.