Beltran and Delgado couldn't be playing any bigger. When the Mets needed them the most, the B-D boys, the two Carlos, almost double-handedly demolished the Cardinals in a 12-5 victory that tied the best-of-seven series at two games each.
Beltran was 3-for-3 with two homers, a walk, four runs scored and two RBIs. Delgado was 2-for-4 with a game-crushing three-run homer (his second three-shot of the series), a two-run double, five RBIs, a walk and two runs scored. Together, they are 11-for-30 in the series with five homers, 13 RBIs and 10 runs scored.
To echo the Mets second-year manager, who played with Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson and other big-shoulder guys in the postseason with the Yankees, that's what big players are supposed to do.
"Every time you contribute in the playoffs, it's a great feeling," said Beltran, whose homers came in the third and seventh innings. "Home runs, that's something that I don't look for, they just happen. I felt good at the plate. I was able to put the ball in play. I felt confident. I felt comfortable out there. I felt like I was on balance every time they made a pitch."
The Cardinals must be getting tired of it.
Two years ago, when Beltran spent his moment in Houston, he hit four homers as the Cardinals struggled to defeat the Astros in seven games to win the pennant. This year it has been more of the same -- three homers in four games, including the two-run winner in Game 1 that gave Tom Glavine enough of a margin to bag the 2-0 win.
"He's a dangerous guy," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who witnessed Beltran's act in 2004 and now has watched the repeat performance this week. "You make pitches like that, throw the ball down the middle to our guys, and we're going to have the same kind of success. We've made mistakes, he's a very good hitter and he takes advantage."
That's why the Mets went out and signed Beltran to a seven-year contract worth $119 million in the months after the center fielder had performed at such a high level in that series in '04.
It took two seasons, but Beltran has now reached the pantheon of the stars. Bernie Williams and George Brett share the all-time record with nine LCS homers. It took Williams 41 games, all with the Yankees. It took Brett, 27 games, all with the Royals. Steve Garvey has the NLCS record -- eight in 22 games for the Dodgers and Padres.
Beltran is two behind the record in just 11 games.
"He's one of the best hitters in the game," Randolph said. "He's done it before. He's been on this stage and he seems to rise to the occasion when the big games come around. We saw it in the World Baseball Classic this spring. He had a different type of swagger to him, a different type of attitude and went out and played. You make a mistake with him, he'll make you pay for it. I love it."
When the Marlins had their latest fire sale of key players last winter, the Mets didn't hesitate to partake. They traded three marginal players for him. Delgado, a left-hander hitter, bats clean up and gives the switch-hitting Beltran, batting just ahead of him, some much-needed cover.
|Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado have both been stroking the ball through the first four games of the NLCS.|
That may be the most prominent reason why Beltran went from 16 homers and 78 RBIs last year to 41 homers and 116 RBIs this year.
In the series, Delgado is batting .400 and Beltran is humming along at .333. Delgado, making the most out of his first postseason after 1,711 regular-season games, had a pair of homers and four RBIs against the Cardinals in a Game 2 debacle that the Mets lost after blowing three leads.
There's no shortage of confidence from these two guys, who were both born in Puerto Rico. No shortage of backing up the words with historic deeds.
"For me, it's a good feeling," Delgado said. "I played 12 1/2 years and never sniffed the playoffs. This is what every athlete wants to be, in the playoffs with an opportunity to win.
"And it couldn't happen to a better group of guys. We worked really hard all summer to be where we are. So we're going to play good and go out there and grind it, and enjoy it. I'm enjoying these playoffs. It's a blast, but I guess it's going to be that much sweeter when we win it."
The B-D boys are trying to help the Mets win it. That's the last thing you need to know.