Wright delivers in 11th, Mets move closer to NL East crown

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MIAMI (AP)—First baseman Carlos Delgado secured the final out and pumped his fist. Players watching on TV inside the New York Mets’ clubhouse leaped from their chairs, and even manager Willie Randolph couldn’t help but talk about celebrating soon with fans at Shea Stadium.

“This was a big one,” Moises Alou said.

Sure was.

It was far from pretty, but the Mets got everything they hoped for Sunday. David Wright singled home the decisive run in the 11th inning to help New York pull out a 7-6 win over the Florida Marlins, pushing them a giant step closer to the playoffs.

The NL East leaders moved 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Philadelphia, which lost 5-3 at Washington. The Mets now return home for their last seven games of the regular season, with a magic number of five for clinching their second consecutive division title.

“The way we’ve battled is very pleasing, to pick up a game, knock another day off the schedule and just get back home,” Randolph said. “We’re looking forward to it. We get a chance to hopefully celebrate with our fans.”

Delgado’s three-run homer highlighted a four-run eighth that gave New York a 6-3 lead, but Florida rallied against Aaron Heilman and closer Billy Wagner to force extra innings.

Dan Uggla’s long leadoff homer against Wagner in the ninth tied it at 6, the latest late-season flop for New York’s overworked and ineffective bullpen.

But the Mets regrouped. Jose Reyes drew a leadoff walk in the 11th from Harvey Garcia (0-1) and went to second on Luis Castillo’s single before scoring on Wright’s single to center.

New York failed to tack on, though, and still needed three outs from shaky relievers Aaron Sele and Scott Schoeneweis to close it out.

They came through.

Sele got the first two outs and Schoeneweis earned his second save. Each has an ERA above 5.00, but they needed only five pitches to combine for a perfect 11th in a game that lasted 3 hours, 59 minutes.

“After the way it’s been lately, as long as the results are like they were today, we don’t care,” Alou said.

Alou threw out Todd Linden at the plate to protect a one-run lead in the eighth and extended his hitting streak to a franchise-record 27 games. Joe Smith (3-1) threw a scoreless 10th for the win.

“It’s always great to see everybody band together and pick each other up,” Wagner said.

Jeremy Hermida had three hits and two RBIs for the Marlins.

“My guys battled,” Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We were down three in the eighth and came back to tie it up. We just weren’t able to get the extra one that we needed.”

There was plenty of drama in the eighth, which started with the scoreboard flashing that the Phillies lost to the Nationals—delighting many in the pro-Mets crowd at Dolphin Stadium.

Alou and Delgado gave them more to cheer.

Wright opened the eighth with a walk off reliever Justin Miller, who allowed each of the first four batters he faced to score. Alou drove in Wright with a single—giving him the longest hitting streak in the majors this year—and Delgado followed with his 24th home run for a 6-3 lead.

Florida wasn’t done, though, and made things interesting against Heilman, who walked Miguel Cabrera and Mike Jacobs to open the eighth.

Linden’s second hit brought Cabrera home to cut the margin to 6-4, and Jason Wood singled two batters later. Jacobs scored easily and third-base coach Bo Porter waved Linden around, but Alou threw out Linden to preserve the lead.

“Our bullpen obviously didn’t do so well at different times,” Randolph said.

Heilman escaped when Hanley Ramirez lined out to third with two runners on, and it was still 6-5 when Wagner—who had pitched only once since Sept. 14 because of back spasms—was summoned in the ninth to protect the one-run lead.

It didn’t last. Uggla hit his 31st homer to tie the game and give Wagner his fifth blown save in 39 chances.

“It’s the first time that I can remember putting a ball in play against him,” Uggla said.

Florida opened the scoring in the third on Hermida’s two-run single. The Mets tied it a half-inning later on Paul Lo Duca’s two-run homer.

Florida went up 3-2 in the sixth on Linden’s RBI single, but the inning could have been worse for the Mets. Center fielder Carlos Beltran—who bruised his knee Friday—caught Alejandro De Aza’s drive for the third out as he hit the wall in left-center.

Beltran departed an inning later and said afterward that he was sore, but hasn’t ruled out playing Monday night against Washington. He said teammates were slapping each other high-fives and cheering while watching the final innings in the clubhouse, and amid it all he even forgot his knee was aching for a second or two.

“Saved the game today,” Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.

Notes

Mets starter John Maine gave up three earned runs in five-plus innings, matching a career best with nine strikeouts. … Marlins LHP Dontrelle Willis presented the family of slain Broward County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Reyka a check for $10,500 before the game. Reyka was killed on duty Aug. 10.

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