Five hours later, whatever celebrating was done on the lawn of Land Shark Stadium was done by the visiting team. In the moments that followed the Mets' 11th-hour, 6-5 victory on Friday night, the Marlins still had a National League Wild Card pulse. But the Mets' victory, accomplished with three runs in the final two innings, did weaken the Marlins' vital signs.
"I'm glad we made it harder for them," Pedro Feliciano said. "They made it hard on us twice."
The 2009 Marlins haven't been considered quite the contender the Mets were in 2007 and 2008, when final-game losses to the Fish at Shea Stadium eliminated them from contention. A victory on Friday night hardly would have guaranteed the Marlins play beyond the first weekend in October.
But as Jerry Manuel likes to say -- and did say on Friday -- "It's always better to win."
With that in mind, the Mets' manager identified his team's 66th victory as "a big one for us" and said, "We needed a win like that. ... to continue to show the effort. To win always is important. Any time you compete, it's good to win ... to keep that feeling."
But Manuel acknowledged that the Mets' first victory in four games and their sixth in 16 games against the Marlins this season had no consequence that will last beyond next Sunday, when the Mets' 2009 ends.
This one turned when Cory Sullivan produced a two-run pinch-hit single against losing pitcher Leo Nunez in the ninth inning, but only after the Mets' let the Marlins score twice in the seventh inning to take a three-run lead.
The Mets scored in the eighth on a passed ball, then, in a scenario seldom seen this season, they launched a successful ninth-inning rally. They had lost 77 times in the previous 80 games in which they trailed through eight innings.
Base hits by Daniel Murphy and Jeff Francoeur and a four-pitch walk to pinch-hitter Jeremy Reed loaded the bases before Sullivan -- 2-for-22 at the time -- singled to left. That hit put Bobby Parnell (4-8) in position to be the winning pitcher, and when Frankie Rodriguez (34th save) disposed of the Marlins in the ninth, the Mets' bullpen had its 17th victory against 26 losses.
The Marlins had scored twice in the seventh off starter Tim Redding and his relief -- Feliciano and Sean Green. A double by Jorge Cantu, Green's first batter, drove home a runner Redding had put on base and one, Hanley Ramirez, Feliciano had intentionally walked.
Ramirez had done significantly more damage earlier. He put his MVP-caliber home run and RBI totals at 24 and 105, respectively, in the fifth against Redding when the Mets starter needed one out to escape the inning.
Cameron Maybin had led off with a single, and after starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco missed a chance to advance the runners, Redding retired Chris Coghlan but walked Nick Johnson on four pitches with the league's leading hitter on deck. Redding's next pitch was a strike, but Ramirez hit it for the 18th home run Redding has allowed in 114 innings this season.
Francoeur had done some damage of his own earlier than that. He hit his second three-run homer for the Mets -- the team's 10th -- in the second inning, following a leadoff single by Carlos Beltran and a double inside first base by Murphy. The home run was Francoeur's eighth with the Mets. Only Beltran (nine), David Wright and Gary Sheffield (10 each), and Murphy (11) have more.
The Mets didn't have another hit or another runner reach second base against Nolasco until the sixth inning, when Luis Castillo followed a leadoff base hit by Angel Pagan with a forceout ground ball and a stolen base. Nolasco walked Beltran, the lone base on balls he allowed, but Wright struck out for the second of four times, and Murphy grounded out.
Nolasco completed the seventh, putting his strikeout total at seven. He has pitched seven innings in two consecutive starts. This time it was his bullpen that faltered. Nunez (4-6) didn't convert a save opportunity for the seventh time in 31 chances, and the Marlins went down.
It wasn't their last breath, as the Mets haven't wounded them nearly as seriously as the Mets have been wounded by the Fish the past two seasons. But now the Marlins trail the Wild Card leaders, the Rockies, by five games.
And, as Warthen had predicted, "it felt good to see them lose."
"That," he said, "does mean something -- to us and to them."