Marlins 5, Mets 4

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NEW YORK (AP)—The Florida Marlins were upbeat after defeating the New York Mets, joking with each other while Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady” played on the clubhouse stereo.

It’s more than luck that’s got the defending World Series champs feeling confident these days. It has more to do with clutch hits and outstanding relief pitching.

“This is the way we need to play the rest of the way,” manager Jack McKeon said.

Paul Lo Duca hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the sixth inning, Mike Lowell homered and the Marlins won their sixth straight with a 5-4 come-from-behind victory Wednesday night.

“It’s almost like it was last season—we know we can come back,” McKeon said.

Florida, which began the day three games behind Chicago and San Francisco in the NL wild-card race, won for the ninth time in 11 games to move seven games over .500 for the first time since June 23.

“We’re going to be in this thing,” McKeon said.

Ismael Valdez (12-7) won his third game in five starts since the Marlins acquired him from San Diego at the trade deadline. He allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings for his 100th major league victory.

Guillermo Mota got five outs, and Armando Benitez entered to boos from the crowd of 19,621 at Shea Stadium before pitching a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 40th save. The former Mets closer has 10 saves against New York this season.

“I’m just trying to do my job,” Benitez said.

Benitez hasn’t allowed a hit to the 30 batters he’s faced since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 13, and has pitched 12 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings.

“He’s the best reliever,” Valdez said. “He’s amazing. He closes the door, big-time.”

Wilson Delgado tied a career high with three hits—including his first homer in almost two years—and drove in a career-high four runs for the Mets, who have lost five straight and 10 of 11.

“He was the one real bright spot for us offensively,” Mets manager Art Howe said.

With the Marlins trailing 4-3 with two outs in the sixth, Lo Duca gave them the lead against Tom Glavine (9-11).

Juan Encarnacion hit a leadoff single, but was erased on Alex Gonzalez’s groundout. Mike Mordecai, pinch-hitting for Valdez, sent a liner down the right-field line for a double to put runners on second and third. After getting Juan Pierre on a grounder back to the mound, Glavine walked Damion Easley to load the bases.

Lo Duca followed with a liner into center field that gave the Marlins a 5-4 lead.

“I had two bad at-bats before that against him and I told myself to almost jam myself against him, and it worked,” Lo Duca said.

The Mets loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half against reliever Nate Bump, but Rudy Seanez came in and got Gerald Williams to pop out behind the plate and pinch-hitter Craig Brazell grounded out to end the inning.

“I told him he deserved the game ball more than I do,” said Valdez, who kept the ball as a souvenir of his milestone victory. “He came in and that was the game right there.”

Delgado gave the Mets a 4-3 lead in the fourth with his first homer since Sept. 26, 2002, when he hit one off Milwaukee’s Andrew Lorraine while with St. Louis.

Delgado went 3-for-4 and has been getting extended playing time with Kaz Matsui on the disabled list, possibly for the rest of the season.

“I feel more comfortable every day,” Delgado said. “Right now, they’re giving me the opportunity to play and I’m doing good.”

David Wright and Jason Phillips hit consecutive singles leading off the inning, and Delgado sent a 3-2 pitch from Valdez into the bullpen in right field.

The Marlins took a quick 2-0 lead in the first against Glavine.

Pierre and Easley opened the game with singles and advanced on Lo Duca’s sacrifice. Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Glavine walked Lowell to force in a run.

Jeff Conine followed with a sacrifice fly to left to drive in Easley.

Delgado cut it to 2-1 in the second with a two-out RBI double.

The Marlins regained their two-run lead on Lowell’s 25th homer in the third.

Glavine allowed five runs and eight hits in six innings.

“I made a mistake on Lo Duca and that was the game,” he said.

Notes

The Marlins are 12-3 against the Mets this year—including seven straight wins. Florida, which clinched its fourth straight road series, has won a club-record six straight at Shea Stadium. … Florida 2B Luis Castillo missed his third straight start after getting hit on the right foot by a pitch Sunday. … Mets CF Mike Cameron was home resting with a viral infection that’s caused him to miss four straight starts.

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