Delgado, Wright Lead Mets Over Dodgers

Wednesday, October 4th 2006, 6:25 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Carlos Delgado hammered the ball all over the field in his playoff debut. David Wright also delivered, and the pitching-depleted New York Mets looked like October regulars during their first postseason game since 2000.

Minus two top starters, the Mets capitalized on a wild baserunning blunder by Los Angeles and a perfectly respectable performance from emergency replacement John Maine in a 6-5 victory Wednesday over the Dodgers.

Billy Wagner closed Game 1 of this NL series for his first postseason save, fanning Nomar Garciaparra with a runner on second for the final out.

``A lot of guys have been waiting for this time in their life, and I think everybody stepped up today,'' said 34-year-old catcher Paul Lo Duca, another newcomer to the playoffs.

Playing in the first postseason game of his 14-year career, Delgado had four hits, a mammoth homer and the go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning.

Wright drove in three runs, helping the Mets jump ahead in the best-of-five series.

``I was very excited,'' Delgado said. ``I had butterflies in my stomach the first couple innings. I was saying, `Whoa, what is going on here?' But I was able to kind of control my emotions and just go out and play.''

Game 2 is Thursday night, with rookie left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo on the mound for the wild-card Dodgers against 290-game winner Tom Glavine. Kuo pitched six shutout innings at Shea Stadium on Sept. 8 for his only major league win.

``We haven't quit all season long, especially these last couple months,'' Los Angeles manager Grady Little said. ``We'll keep coming at you.''

The Mets started a rookie of their own in the opener after Orlando Hernandez tore a muscle in his right calf while jogging in the outfield Tuesday. He is expected to miss the entire postseason.

Already without injured ace Pedro Martinez, New York scrambled Tuesday night to find a healthy, rested starter and picked Maine, an afterthought in the offseason trade that sent Kris Benson to Baltimore for reliever Jorge Julio.

The 25-year-old Maine went 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA for the NL East champions, who tied the crosstown Yankees for the best record in baseball at 97-65.

Yet he probably would have been left out of the playoff rotation altogether if Martinez hadn't gone down.

``My nerves I think were worse in the second inning than they were in the first,'' Maine said. ``It wasn't too bad.''

Lifted with a 2-1 lead in the fifth, Maine got a break on a bizarre play when the Dodgers had two runners cut down at home plate in the second.

With two on and none out, rookie Russell Martin hit an opposite-field drive off the base of the right-field wall. But Jeff Kent hesitated at second base, apparently thinking the ball might be caught, and got an extremely late jump.

That left J.D. Drew, who was on first, practically running up Kent's back as coach Rich Donnelly waved one _ or both _ around third. A quick, accurate relay from right fielder Shawn Green to second baseman Jose Valentin to Lo Duca nailed Kent, who attempted a headfirst dive into the plate.

``If I hold him, we've got two guys at third base,'' Donnelly said. ``I was hoping they'd throw the ball away. I didn't really want to send Jeff. J.D. was right behind him, and I thought, one's going to be out and one's going to be safe.''

Drew was left in no-man's land, trapped about halfway between third and home. Yet Lo Duca, who got spun around on the play at the plate, didn't realize that at first as he struggled to his feet.

With Lo Duca unaware for a moment, Drew tried to sneak his way in. But the catcher turned his head, suddenly noticed Drew bearing down on him and applied a second tag as Drew also tried a headfirst dive.

``We've been in L.A. all season long. We know about traffic jams. We certainly had one again right there,'' Little said. ``That's a trick play we work on in spring training.''

It was the kind of sequence you often see in a Hollywood movie, but rarely on a major league field.

``We got two for the price of one,'' Valentin said.

Marlon Anderson followed with an RBI double for a 1-0 lead, but that was all the Dodgers got after running themselves out of a potentially big inning.

Aaron Heilman worked a perfect eighth for New York, which plans to rely heavily on its deep bullpen all series. Wagner allowed an RBI double to pinch-hitter Ramon Martinez in the ninth before striking out Garciaparra.

``We needed this game, as far as momentum goes,'' Wright said. ``We have a team full of igniters. When a couple of these guys get going, it rubs off.''

With the score tied at 4, Little brought starter Brad Penny out of the bullpen in the seventh. Penny, bothered by a bad back and 3-10 lifetime against the Mets with a 6.16 ERA, walked two of his first three batters.

Delgado put the Mets ahead with an opposite-field single, then gave a huge fist pump after rounding first.

``I was pretty fired up,'' he said.

Delgado had played the most games of any active player without reaching the postseason. He also was No. 1 on the active home run list without a playoff appearance.

``It's nice to see him finally get an opportunity on this stage and come through,'' Randolph said.

Wright's bloop double made it 6-4.

The Dodgers tied it at 4-all with three runs in the seventh against reliever Guillermo Mota.

Anderson got the rally going with a bunt single, and a throwing error by second baseman Valentin helped Los Angeles. Rafael Furcal's RBI single made it 4-2, and Garciaparra's two-out, two-run double tied it.

Delgado's fourth-inning drive landed on top of an elevated camera stand behind the center-field fence and was estimated at 470 feet. Cliff Floyd, hobbled by a score Achilles' heel, added his first postseason homer later in the inning for a 2-1 Mets lead.

Wright hit a two-run double off starter Derek Lowe in the sixth to make it 4-1, and gave an enthusiastic fist pump of his own.

Notes: Dodgers Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax watched the game from a box with Mets owner Fred Wilpon. The two were high school teammates growing up in Brooklyn.