Mets edge Dodgers as Delgado ends lengthy slump

Mets 4, Dodgers 3

NEW YORK (AP) -- Orlando Hernandez has pitched like an ace all season. If the New York Mets can get Carlos Delgado going, too, they might wind up pulling away from the rest of the NL East again.

Hernandez tossed seven sharp innings and Delgado finally came through with a big hit, sending New York to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.

David Wright had an RBI single, scored twice and reached base safely all four times up. Delgado turned boos to cheers by snapping an 0-for-19 skid with a two-run single that put his team ahead by three.

"He'll heat up. You watch," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.

Jeff Conine added a seventh-inning RBI double in his first start for the Mets, who have won nine of 12 as they try to capture consecutive division titles for the first time in franchise history.

New York, which began the day with a season-high six-game lead in the NL East, also got fine defense from 41-year-old catcher Sandy Alomar Jr.

Hernandez (9-4) was cruising along with a two-hit shutout until Luis Gonzalez and Russell Martin hit consecutive solo homers with two outs in the seventh. El Duque recovered to strike out pinch-hitter Matt Kemp.

Pedro Feliciano relieved in the eighth, and right fielder Lastings Milledge misplayed Shea Hillenbrand's fly ball into a leadoff triple. Mark Sweeney's RBI groundout cut it to 4-3, but that was it for the Dodgers.

Feliciano got speedy Juan Pierre to ground into an inning-ending double play and pumped his fist as he walked off the field.

"In general, our approach in those key spots is not what I see across the way," Los Angeles manager Grady Little said, referring to the Mets.

Hampered by a "dead arm," New York closer Billy Wagner said he needed a day off. In his place, setup man Aaron Heilman worked a scoreless ninth against the middle of Los Angeles' lineup for his first save since Sept. 30, 2005.

After Jeff Kent singled with one out, Heilman got Gonzalez to ground into a 1-6-3 double play.

"He went out there and did better than I would have done, so I'm happy for him," Wagner said.

Hernandez struck out seven and walked two, lowering his ERA to 3.07. He improved to 5-0 in his last nine starts -- all New York wins. The right-hander also had a testy exchange with Martin while the Dodgers' All-Star was batting in the fifth.

"I kind of stuck my elbow out. I'm trying to get on base, and he might have taken exception to that," Martin said. "He was talking Spanish, so I don't know what he was saying. He might have been talking to Sandy Alomar."

Earlier in the inning, El Duque threw an eephus pitch to Gonzalez that helped set up a strikeout.

After Pierre's one-out single in the first, Hernandez didn't give up another hit until Rafael Furcal singled with two outs in the sixth.

"Another masterful job by El Duque. When he's in that rhythm like that, it's beautiful to watch," Randolph said.

Jose Reyes singled leading off the third, got his 70th stolen base and scored on Wright's single off Eric Stults (1-2).

Batting sixth for the second consecutive game, Delgado stranded five runners in his first two at-bats -- drawing loud boos from the crowd of 52,655. The Dodgers intentionally walked Conine in the fifth to load the bases with two outs for Delgado, and the fans rose to their feet, urging on the slumping slugger.

"I wasn't sure if it was for me -- but they were loud," Delgado said. "It just goes to show you, you never know what they're going to do."

He promptly delivered, lining a two-run single to center off Stults for a 3-0 lead. Delgado, who recently missed four games with a hyperextended left knee, clapped his hands after rounding first.

"Of course, you've got to celebrate 'em -- especially when they're not coming too often," he said. "Things are easier to deal with or easier to handle, for lack of a better term, when you're winning."

The big first baseman also leaned far into the photographers' well to make an outstretched catch on Hillenbrand's foul popup in the third.

Alomar threw out a pair of runners attempting to steal and made a difficult catch against the screen on a foul popup.

The Mets had scored at least five runs in a club-record 12 straight games, the longest such streak in the majors since Texas also had a 12-game run in 2005, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Game notes
It was Gonzalez's first home run since July 18. ... The Mets have stolen at least one base in 10 consecutive games, one short of the club record set in 1987.

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