It’s been a little more than three months since the New York Mets played a game while sitting alone atop the NL East standings.
That will be the case when the NL East leaders try for a third straight victory in the opener of a three-game home set with the reeling St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.
Despite a disappointing first half that included the firing of manager Willie Randolph, New York (55-47) regained sole possession of first place in the East by one game after beating Philadelphia 3-1 on Thursday.
The Mets, 21-12 since Jerry Manuel replaced Randolph, haven’t been alone in first place since April 19.
“The season doesn’t end tomorrow,” third baseman David Wright told the Mets’ official Web site. “We can’t be happy with what we’ve accomplished so far. We can’t be happy with being in first place.”
Carlos Delgado drove in two runs Thursday for the Mets, who won two straight after blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning of an 8-6 loss to the Phillies on Monday.
“We’ve been resilient for a long period of time,” said Manuel of New York, which is 30-19 at home in the final season at Shea Stadium.
Delgado has six RBIs in his last four games and hitting .397 (29-for-73) with 16 RBIs in 20 games this month. He is 5-for-12 with a homer and four RBIs in four games against St. Louis this season.
“He’s a streaky hitter to begin with,” Wright said. “And when he gets hot, he gets ridiculously hot.”
Though Pelfrey allowed five runs and six hits—including three homers—in seven innings of a 7-5 win at Cincinnati on Sunday, he is 6-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his last 10 contests since recording his sixth straight loss May 26.
The right-hander fared well in his only previous start versus St. Louis, allowing a run in seven innings of the Mets’ 11-1 win on July 3.
The Cardinals (57-47) open a seven-game road trip trying to bounce back after getting swept by Milwaukee in a four-game home series. St. Louis began the series in second place in the NL Central, two games back of first-place Chicago and concluded the set in third place, four games out after falling 4-3 on Thursday.
“(It’s) a real difficult loss, difficult series,” said manager Tony La Russa, whose team led in three of the four games and hasn’t lost five in a row since dropping nine straight Sept. 7-15.
While Ankiel is hitting .372 (16-for-43) with 12 RBIs in his last 11 games, Pujols is 2-for-14 in his last four and hasn’t homered since July 4.
On Friday, rookie Mitchell Boggs (3-1, 6.75) makes his first start since being recalled from the minors Monday. He was battered around in his last start, which happened to come against the Pelfrey and the Mets on July 3, allowing 10 earned runs and 10 hits in six innings.
“I definitely look at it as an opportunity to prove myself,” Boggs told the Cardinals’ official Web site.
The teams split a four-game set from June 30-July 3.