Kenny Rogers gave up back-to-back homers to Mike Lieberthal and Rico Brogna yesterday as the Philadelphia Phillies sent the visiting New York Mets to their fifth straight loss, 4-2.

The Mets' free fall continued as they dropped into a tie with Cincinnati for the NL wild card. The Reds beat St. Louis, 6-1.

New York fell 5 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Atlanta with seven to play.

After the game, Manager Bobby Valentine said he should be fired if the Mets don't make the playoffs.

"It's probably as crazy as it gets, but I shouldn't come back next year if we don't go to the playoffs," Valentine said. "That would be an easy decision if we don't get to the playoffs. I'm not making anybody's decision for them."

Valentine added that he would not resign, saying, "I have never walked away from anything in my life. And I'm not walking away from this. This isn't over. This is a seven-game season that I think is going to bring the best out in us."

Robert Person (9-5), traded by the Mets to Toronto for John Olerud in 1996, shut down his former team and got his first victory since Aug. 26.

REDS 6, CARDINALS 1: Greg Vaughn matched Cincinnati's one-month homer record by hitting his 14th this month, a two-run shot that powered the Reds at home. The Reds again held Mark McGwire in check -- he went 0 for 4 to remain stuck at 59 home runs. Vaughn's two-run homer off Jose Jimenez (5-14) broke a fifth-inning tie and matched Frank Robinson's team record for homers in a month. Robinson hit 14 in August 1962.

BREWERS 3, ASTROS 2: Mark Loretta and Brian Banks drove in runs and Scott Karl won his third straight game, cutting visiting Houston's lead over second-place Cincinnati in the NL Central to 1 1/2 games.

CUBS 3, PIRATES 1: Jon Lieber (9-11) pitched a three-hitter for his first win in 2 1/2 months, and Jose Nieves provided the home run power in Chicago. Sammy Sosa didn't homer for the sixth straight game and is stuck at 61, two ahead of McGwire. He was 0 for 3 with a strikeout.

BRAVES 5, EXPOS 3: Andruw Jones and Ozzie Guillen each had two RBI as visiting Atlanta won its sixth straight and reduced its magic number to clinch an eighth straight NL East title to two.

DIAMONDBACKS 7, GIANTS 3: Tony Womack's RBI single broke a tie in a four-run ninth inning to give visiting Arizona the win after it blew a two-run lead in the eighth.

MARLINS 8, ROCKIES 2: Mike Lowell drove in a pair of runs and Ryan Dempster (7-8) pitched seven strong innings in Miami.

PADRES 3, DODGERS 2: Wally Joyner and Wiki Gonzalez hit back-to-back homers off reliever Matt Herges in the eighth inning in Los Angeles and Woody Williams (11-12) won his fourth straight decision.