NEW YORK -- On Monday night, the New York Mets' best option to throw the seventh inning wasn't their newest player but their oldest pitcher.
Right-hander Bartolo Colon tossed eight shutout innings and helped his own cause by singling and scoring during a three-run fifth inning that lifted the Mets to a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.
The 42-year-old Colon -- the second-oldest player in baseball -- improved to 12-11 after allowing just four hits and one walk while tying a season high with nine strikeouts. The win was the 216th of his career, second most among active pitchers.
"It's kind of unbelievable he can still pitch with such high success," Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud said, "but that's who he is. And that's what I've always seen."
Colon extended his scoreless streak to 16 innings while lowering his ERA to 4.42. He blanked the Phillies for seven innings in a 9-4 win last Wednesday before throwing a scoreless inning of relief Saturday.
"The last two times out, he's thrown a couple times between starts," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Two days ago, he came in a game and pitched. And I think the fact that he's thrown a little bit more -- he's found his command, he found his release point. He's pitched great."
His effort Monday spared a Mets bullpen that has lacked a seventh-inning reliever all season. New York relievers squandered two seventh-inning leads in a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox over the weekend.
Mets starters have pitched into the seventh inning 67 times in 131 games this season and have a seventh-inning ERA of 1.80. The team's relievers have a 3.44 ERA in the seventh.
The latest candidate to pitch the seventh is right-hander Addison Reed, a former closer who was in uniform Monday, a day after he was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
However, Reed and everyone else in the bullpen sat back and watched in the seventh and eighth Monday. Colon retired the final 10 batters he faced following back-to-back two-out singles in the fifth by shortstop Freddy Galvin and pitcher Jerad Eickhoff.
"The team needed a day like today, and especially the bullpen, (which was) kind of struggling (and throwing) more innings," Colon said through interpreter Ricky Bones. "So I was going to give the bullpen a breather so they can be rested for the rest of the series."
While Collins entrusted the seventh and eighth to Colon, the manager said there was no consideration to letting him pitch the ninth. Colon said he was tired from running the bases in the fifth, when he singled with two outs for his career-high seventh hit of the season and scored two pitches later on right fielder Curtis Granderson's home run.
"I've got one of the best closers in the game," Collins said, referring to right-hander Jeurys Familia. "It's a closing situation. I'm closing with him."
Familia nearly squandered the lead in the ninth, when the Phillies loaded the bases with no outs via two hits and a walk. However, Familia notched his 36th save by getting right fielder Jeff Francouer to hit into a run-scoring double play and striking out third baseman Andres Blanco.
With their second consecutive win, the Mets (73-58) ensured they would remain at least 5 1/2 games ahead of the Washington Nationals in the National League East. New York, which went 20-8 in August, will enter September in first place for the first time since 2008.
Rookie left fielder Michael Conforto had two hits for the Mets, including a solo homer in the fifth two batters before Colon's single.
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez had two singles and scored the lone run for the Phillies (52-80), who lost for the sixth time in eight games. Philadelphia is 1-13 this year against the Mets.
"They just have our number up 'til this point," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're going to take it to them the next two days."
Eickhoff (1-2) allowed three runs on four hits and two walks while striking out four over seven innings in his third career start and second straight against the Mets.
"I'm happy with Eickhoff's performance -- he pitched really well," Mackanin said. "Kept us in the game, and then we had a chance with Familia at the end."
NOTES: To make room on the roster for RHP Addison Reed, the Mets optioned RHP Logan Verrett to Triple-A Las Vegas. ... New York LHP Steven Matz (torn left lat) made his final rehab start Monday night for Double-A Binghamton, allowing one hit in 5 1/3 shutout innings. Matz will be among the players added to the Mets' roster Tuesday. ... Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said RHP Chad Billingsley (right flexor strain) won't pitch again this season. Arm woes have limited Billingsley to just nine big-league appearances since 2013. ... Proefrock said most of the Phillies' post-Sept. 1 recalls will be pitchers in order to lessen the load on the rookies in the rotation: LHP Adam Morgan, RHP Alec Asher, RHP Aaron Nola and RHP Jerad Eickhoff.