WASHINGTON -- Day after day and night after night, Mets manager Willie Randolph has downplayed Carlos Delgado's struggles -- almost to the point where it's become routine. He's fine, Randolph has taken to say. He'll bust out. No worries here.

That's why an otherwise minor lineup tweak on Wednesday seemed so significant.

Delgado, who drove in Carlos Beltran with an RBI groundout in the second inning on Wednesday, dropped to sixth in the batting order, in what was Randolph's most telling admission yet of what this has become: a plain old, no-good slump.

"To me, when I think about changing my lineup, it's really simple," Randolph said. "It's not just where you put a guy. It's who's pitching that night, what team you're playing against ... all those things go into the equation."

And all those things told Randolph that Ryan Church, not Delgado, should be batting fifth. Neither player entered Wednesday's game with much of a history against Nationals starter Tim Redding -- Church had never faced him, and Delgado had logged only two career two at-bats -- but recent history told a different story. The most recent stat sheets showed Church batting .338 and Delgado only .208 -- not that he cared to look.

"That's kind of the worst thing you can do," Delgado said. "Looking at the numbers is not going to make you hit better. You just want to go out and look at the ball."

Randolph dropped Delgado down to sixth in the lineup 19 times last season, though most of that came at year's end -- back when Moises Alou was busy being the team's most productive hitter. Now Alou is hurt, and the team doesn't have many other middle-of-the-lineup candidates. Church made the most sense, and so he got the call.

"Carlos is struggling a little bit," Randolph said. "Church is swinging a little bit better. I thought I'd just throw him in there and see if we can get something going."

Perhaps this will be temporary, or perhaps -- with Alou due back possibly next week -- it will be permanent. Either way, Delgado knows that he needs to start hitting -- and now. If this move can spark a change, he's all for it. If not, perhaps it was worth a try.

"I don't think they're going to pitch to me any differently," Delgado said. "You just have to be ready to do what the situation calls for. If you swing better and you hit better, you hit higher in the order. It's as simple as that."