Delgado delivers Mets walk-off win
First baseman caps 5-for-5 night with RBI single in ninth
NEW YORK -- The ball zipped off Carlos Delgado's bat, and David Wright bolted toward home plate. It was instinct. It was reaction. It was not particularly wise.
Wright realized that, of course, but only as the ball reached the apex of its flight. So he stopped halfway to third base, nearly tumbling to the ground in the process, and took two steps back toward second.
Then, as if willed by whatever force of luck has been guiding these Mets of late, Braves left fielder Omar Infante misplayed the ball. So Wright reversed direction yet again, rounding third and touching home plate to give the Mets a walk-off, 5-4 victory.
"David was out there in no-man's land," manager Jerry Manuel said, laughing. "I don't know what he was doing. He wanted to score so bad."
No doubt, Wright was able to score the winning run Thursday thanks to an isolated stroke of luck. Because Delgado's hit didn't arc far off the ground, and because Infante was racing directly toward it, Shea Stadium's lights forced the left fielder to lose track of the ball. The result was a hit that glanced off his glove, landing far enough away that Wright could start, stop and restart his path toward the plate.
"I thought it was going to get down," Wright said.
"I was thinking double play," Manuel laughed.
Difference of opinion aside, Wright almost certainly would have been doubled off second base had Infante caught the ball -- so chalk this Mets victory up to luck. But then again, part of Infante's trouble came from the velocity of the ball; Delgado had scalded it, just as he had most of his five hits on the night. So the Mets are making plays, and because of that, they're finding fortune.
A legitimate cause-and-effect seems to have hatched at Shea.
"I think we're catching breaks," said Pedro Martinez, the night's starter. "And at the same time, we're making it happen. Because if Delgado doesn't hit that ball that well, to that area, then we probably wouldn't have a chance."
In that statement was a modicum of modesty. The Mets also had a chance to win because Martinez, flaws and all, pitched well enough to keep his team in such a position. And like Mike Pelfrey, who hurled a complete game the night before, Martinez pitched efficiently enough to keep the bullpen contribution to a minimum.
Martinez had thrown 99 pitches through seven innings, so Manuel sent him back to the mound to face Yunel Escobar -- and no one else, regardless of result -- to lead off the eighth. Most of those pitches had produced the desired results. Although Escobar had homered on the first pitch he saw, and although Martinez "coughed up the lead" -- as he preferred to state it -- Martinez's outing ensured that the Mets had a chance to tie Thursday's game.
They did precisely that in the seventh inning, when Nick Evans scored on an error. And while additional offense came when Wright homered in the fifth inning, most of what the Mets desired to achieve came via Delgado.
Of his five hits, three of them plated runs. And Delgado's final single was perhaps most impressive, when he drilled a pitch low and outside -- and a good distance off the plate -- into the more regrettable reaches of Infante's memory.
Then Delgado jogged to first base, knowing that the Mets had just won their ninth game in 10 tries in rather impressive fashion.
"I got lucky," Delgado said. "I hit a ball into the lights."
Delgado was one of the few who wouldn't admit to anything more than luck. But there was indeed something more there, as Martinez made sure to acknowledge. Luck is only useful if a team puts itself in a position to be lucky. Chances are, for example, that Infante would not have normally lost a lazy fly ball in the lights.
And chances are that Delgado wouldn't have even been batting fifth in the lineup had he never emerged from the slump that consumed so much of last year -- and the beginning of this one. So now teammates are raving about his bat, just as much as they're raving about his disposition and his quiet brand of leadership. They're raving about it all.
"That guy's a big, huge deal for us," Martinez said. "In every aspect."
It was no lucky break, either, that the Mets entered the bottom of the ninth locked in a tie game. That much was thanks to Luis Ayala, who thrived in his second Mets appearance, quelling a game-threatening rally and finishing with 1 1/3 shutout innings.
Ayala and Martinez and Wright put the elements of a win in place, and then a stroke of luck sealed them there. Which is a formula that the Mets were glad to accept.
"A lot of things are really working in our favor right now," Manuel said. "It's baseball. It can change on you. It can go in another direction. But right now, it's a good feeling."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.