Mike Pelfrey is certainly entitled to his share of the credit.
With Delgado coming off yet another outstanding game, the Mets send Pelfrey to the mound and look to widen their lead in the division when they play the finale of a two-game set with the lowly Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.
When New York (81-63) was struggling and close to being counted out in the NL East, the two players most instrumental in helping the Mets get back on track and open a 2 1/2-game lead over Philadelphia in the division were Delgado and Pelfrey.
Delgado hit two homers for the second straight game, leading New York to a 10-8 win over Washington (56-89) on Tuesday night. The Mets gained a game on the Phillies, who lost 10-8 to Florida.
Delgado homered twice Sunday night in the second game of a doubleheader against the Phillies, and now has 68 RBIs in his last 66 games and four multihomer games in his last 13. The veteran first baseman has 35 homers and 103 RBIs on the season.
“It’s great to be able to contribute,” Delgado said. “It’s great to be able to help the team. I think we’ve got a great club. It’s a great race. It’s awesome.”
When New York was 42-44, Delgado was hitting .235 with 15 home runs. His turnaround, coupled with the Mets’, should put him among the top NL MVP candidates.
“To be fighting for that and having that type of run is basically saying, ‘I’m putting you on my shoulders,’” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.
As good as Delgado has been, it’s unlikely New York would be in first place without Pelfrey (13-9, 3.62 ERA), who is having a breakout season. He entered this year as a top prospect that hadn’t fulfilled expectations, but he is 11-3 with a 2.96 ERA in his last 19 starts.
The right-hander is 8-6 with a 2.66 ERA in 16 starts at Shea Stadium. He is 1-1 with a 0.61 ERA in two starts versus the Nationals this season, and 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in five career starts against them.
Pelfrey, though, lost for the first time in five outings Friday, yielding three runs - two earned - and four hits in seven innings as New York lost 3-0 to Philadelphia on Friday.
The Mets’ bullpen pitched two scoreless innings in that contest, and is 6-2 with a 0.30 ERA in the team’s last eight games. New York’s relievers have had to step up with closer Billy Wagner scheduled to have elbow ligament replacement surgery that will force him to miss the rest of the season and likely all of next year.
Luis Ayala pitched a perfect ninth Tuesday for his sixth save in seven chances since coming to the Mets last month in a trade with Washington.
The Nationals traded Ayala partly because they’re struggling through another lost season. Washington, however, had won 10 of 13 entering this series.
Trying to play the role of spoiler, the Nationals will send Odalis Perez (6-10, 4.19) to the mound. He is 5-6 with a 4.11 ERA in 12 starts and seven relief appearances against the Mets.
The left-hander gave up three runs and four hits in five innings against Philadelphia on Wednesday night, but did not receive a decision as Washington won 9-7.