"What that did," third baseman David Wright said of Philadelphia's loss, "was create a little crack in the door. [There was] another opening to go through, and we hadn't been able to do it [previously]. This time, we did."
It took 11 innings, but Wright's RBI single gave the Mets a 7-6 victory before 17,130 at Dolphin Stadium, and allowed them to open a 2 1/2-game lead over the Phillies in the National League East.
Said manager Willie Randolph with a wan smile when the nerve-wracking afternoon was over, "Obviously, the baseball gods are making us pay a little bit."
Wright figures the Mets won this one with resilience.
"In a four-hour game like this, it's which team wants it the most," he said. "We did an excellent job of not allowing ourselves to get down."
That could have happened. The Mets had a one-run lead and stood three outs from victory when their celebrated closer, Billy Wagner, returned to the mound in the ninth inning after two days off to deal with back spasms.
The probable result didn't materialize, with the Marlins giving Wagner a quick wake-up call. The closer surrendered a leadoff home run to Dan Uggla estimated at 431 feet.
Yet the good news is that Wagner said he came out feeling fine and can help on another day.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Wagner said. "But it's always great to see everybody band together and pick each other up."
The Mets also could have stumbled when they came into the eighth inning trailing by a run. Moises Alou, who established a Mets record by hitting safely in his 27th straight game, tied the game at 3 with an eighth-inning single. Then Carlos Delgado launched a Justin Miller changeup for a towering three-run home run that quickly give the Mets a 6-3 lead.
For Delgado, who has struggled for much of the season, it was gratifying to regain some personal momentum as a hitter.
"I feel pretty good up there," he said. "I'm trying not to do too much. See the ball, hit the ball."
On this day, his heroics weren't enough. The visitors needed an accurate throw from Alou in left field to nail a sliding Todd Linden at home in the bottom of the eighth, just to prevent the Marlins from tying the game.
|Moises Alou||27||Aug. 23-Sept. 23, 2007|
|David Wright||26||Sept. 17, 2006-April 20, 2007|
|Hubie Brooks||24||May 1-June 1, 1984|
|Mike Piazza||24||May 25-June 22, 1999|
|Cleon Jones||23||Aug. 25-Sept. 25, 1970|
|John Olerud||23||July 19-Aug. 9, 1998|
|Mike Vail||23||Aug. 22-Sept. 15, 1975|
|Mike Piazza||21||June 7-July 3, 2000|
Right-hander John Maine tried for his 15th victory in this game. He tied a career high by striking out nine, but he lasted just five-plus innings, giving up three runs, six hits and two walks.
The Mets fell behind early, 2-0, but Paul Lo Duca tied it with a two-run home run in the fourth. That was it for the Mets until the late innings.
"It wasn't easy, but now we have a chance to go home and celebrate [potentially clinching a playoff berth] with our fans," Randolph said.
The only sobering news to come out of the game for the Mets was that center fielder Carlos Beltran, who injured his left knee on Friday, ran into the left-center-field wall in the sixth inning while making a catch, further bruising it.
Beltran walked off the field under his own power, but slowly. He was replaced defensively in the next inning. Beltran said he hit the wall with his injured knee.
"I tried to jog off the field, and I couldn't do it," he said. "Moises Alou came over and said he'd walk off the field with me, and I said, 'No, I don't want to walk. I want to try to run again.' But the pain was too much."
It was mentioned to Beltran that it might take a miracle for him to play Monday.
"I believe in miracles," he blurted.
Mets general manager Omar Minaya has seen media reports suggesting vaguely that Beltran isn't the toughest of players, and he tried his best to refute them after Sunday's game.
"Anybody who questions this guy's toughness doesn't know what he's saying," Minaya said. "He's been grinding it out with leg problems for the last three years."
Minaya said the Mets haven't advertised Beltran's leg injuries "because we didn't want to give the other teams an edge," but he said there is too much disinformation out there for him to stay silent.
"Carlos Beltran has played through a lot more injuries than a lot of guys," Minaya said. "He wants to be out there."
Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.