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Mets' magic number at three after win over Marlins

MIAMI (AP) -- Carlos Delgado dealt a blow to Florida's wild-card
hopes and moved the Mets closer to wrapping up their long-awaited
NL East title.

Delgado -- who has never been to the postseason -- hit a tying,
three-run homer in the eighth inning, and Cliff Floyd's RBI double
put New York ahead to stay in its 6-4 win over the Florida Marlins
in a rain-delayed game Tuesday night.

The Mets trimmed their magic number for winning the NL East to
three. They could clinch their first division title since 1988 on
Wednesday with a victory over Florida and an Atlanta sweep in its
doubleheader against Philadelphia.

"It will be exciting when it happens," Delgado said. "It's
been a great year and we're all looking forward to that moment."

New York's victory also eliminated the Braves from the NL East
race, ending their record run of 14 straight division titles.

The Mets trailed 4-1 entering the eighth before rallying with
four runs. Florida could have moved within a game of the NL
wild-card lead because San Diego lost 5-4 in 11 innings at
Cincinnati. Instead, the Marlins remained two games back with 17
remaining.

"It's a tough loss," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. "We
need to bounce back tomorrow. Obviously, we still have a chance to
do what we set out to do and that's win the series. But it's a
tough loss."

A trio of former Marlins -- Floyd, Delgado and Paul Lo Duca --
combined for seven hits, and David Wright added three hits and two
runs scored for New York.

"We're inching closer to the playoffs," Floyd said. "It's
been a long time for this organization. Everybody is excited about
getting to the postseason."

Endy Chavez drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth for an
insurance run, and Billy Wagner got three outs for his 37th save in
42 chances. He struck out Miguel Cabrera with two on to end it.

Guillermo Mota (2-0) pitched a scoreless seventh for the win and
Aaron Heilman worked the eighth to set up Wagner.

Josh Willingham had three hits, including his 24th home run, for
the Marlins. Wes Helms had two RBI for Florida, which got five
shutout innings from Josh Johnson -- who hasn't allowed a run in 17
innings against the Mets this season.

Florida's bullpen couldn't hold the 4-0 lead Johnson departed
with; six Florida relievers combined to allow 10 hits and six runs
in four innings.

Meanwhile, four Mets relievers combined to allow five hits and
no runs in four innings.

"It's just one of those nights where we did everything early
and couldn't do anything late," Helms said. "That happens. We
didn't need it to happen tonight, but it did. It's one game. We
needed it, but it's over with."

Wright had an RBI double in the seventh, pulling the Mets to
4-1. Lo Duca and Carlos Beltran started the eighth with singles,
and Delgado connected off Taylor Tankersley for his 39th home run
to straightaway center field.

"That was a big situation in the game," Delgado said. "I was
looking for a chance to tie it. ... It's nice to be able to come
through."

Wright, the next batter, doubled off Chris Resop (1-1) -- and the
Marlins followed with another pitching change. It, too, didn't
work, as Floyd greeted Renyel Pinto with another double, scoring
Wright.

"We kept our focus," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.
"That's what you're supposed to do."

New York starter Oliver Perez struck out a season-high 11 in
five innings, allowing five hits and four runs.

Rain delayed the start by 46 minutes, then interrupted play for
another 82 minutes in the second inning -- after the Marlins built a
2-0 lead on Helms' two-run, two-out double in the first.

Both starting pitchers returned after the long delay.

Perez struck out eight batters in his first three innings of
post-delay work, yet wasn't flawless during that span. He allowed a
one-out single to Cabrera in the third, then Willingham followed
his homer that staked Florida to a 4-0 lead.

Johnson, meanwhile, yielded leadoff singles in the fourth and
fifth innings, but neither Met -- first Lo Duca, then Floyd --
advanced farther. But eventually, the Mets broke through.

"This is a big win tonight," Floyd said. "I think we'll all
sleep a little better."

Game notes
Mets RF Shawn Green was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. ...
Florida 2B Dan Uggla singled in the first, giving him hits in six
straight at-bats. ... Franco is 0-for-8 with the bases loaded this
season. ... Many of the 15,163 fans who remained through the delays
cheered when the scoreboard showed Cincinnati's win. Another reason
to cheer: They get $1 tickets to an upcoming game because the rain
delays exceeded 90 minutes.