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Perez steps up in crunch time for Mets in win over Marlins

• Hunt for October: The Mets maintained their divisional lead of 1½ games over Philadelphia, which beat Washington 4-1. Their magic number to clinch the division is seven with eight games to play.

• Hero: Oliver Perez pitched eight innings, allowing six hits, one walk and one earned run while striking out eight.

• Unsung hero: David Wright went 3-for-5, stole two bases and scored twice for New York.

• Figure this: Moises Alou extended his hitting streak to a team record-tying 26 games and also tied Cleveland's Casey Blake for the longest hitting streak in the majors this year.

• Quotable: "We were in Miami but it felt like New York." -- Marlins pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim

-- ESPN.com news services

Mets 7, Marlins 2

MIAMI -- Hand-held noisemakers were the promotional giveaway
Saturday at Dolphin Stadium, which allowed the many transplanted
New Yorkers in the stands to create quite a din for their
first-place Mets.

Buoyed by the support, the Mets strengthened their hold on the
NL East by beating the Florida Marlins 7-2.

"It's a great feeling when you go on the road and have so many
fans pulling for you," Mets slugger Carlos Beltran said.

The announced crowd was 22,517, with the majority rooting for
the visitors, and they had plenty to cheer about. Oliver Perez
pitched eight innings, Ramon Castro hit a three-run homer and
Moises Alou extended his hitting streak to a team record-tying 26
games.

"We were in Miami," losing pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim said, "but
it felt like New York."

Following a brief September swoon, the Mets won for the second
time in 19 hours and retained a division lead of 1½ games over
Philadelphia, which beat Washington 4-1 in 10 innings. New York's
magic number to clinch division is seven with eight games to play.

"Sometimes when you get one win, it seems like three," manager
Willie Randolph said. "That's the way it feels right now, because
they're all huge."

Too bad for the Mets they play only one more game in Miami,
where they're 7-1 this year.

"It's a good feeling when the Mets fans outnumber the Marlins
fans," New York third baseman David Wright said. "It's kind of
our home away from home."

Alou singled leading off the ninth inning to match Wright's team
hitting-streak record set in 2006-07. Alou also tied Cleveland's
Casey Blake for the longest hitting streak in the majors this year.

Beltran was back in the lineup after leaving Friday's game with
a bruised left knee. He went 1-for-3 with two walks and scored a
run. Wright went 3-for-5, stole two bases and scored twice.

Perez (15-9) gave up six hits, one walk and one earned run while
striking out eight.

"That's as good as it gets -- an outstanding job of stepping
up," Randolph said. "It just goes to show, when Ollie is throwing
strikes and trusts his stuff, how good a pitcher he can be."

Aaron Heilman completed the seven-hitter, while closer Billy Wagner sat out for the third game in a row. Wagner has been
sidelined by back spasms but said he was available Saturday.

"It's the best I've felt in two or three days," he said. "I'm
pretty excited about it. We've turned the corner a little bit."

The Mets can say the same: They've won three of four since a
five-game losing streak.

Six of the Mets' runs came with two out, and they made the most
of their three hits off Kim (9-8). He allowed five runs in five
innings.

The last-place Marlins, who committed a team-record six errors
Friday, made another in the first inning to help New York take a
2-0 lead.

Jose Reyes led off with a double, took third on a sacrifice and
scored on Wright's single. Wright stole second, and with two out he
came home when shortstop Hanley Ramirez made a bad throw on a
grounder for his 23rd error.

New York needed only one hit to score three in the fourth.
Beltran walked, Shawn Green was hit by a pitch and Castro hit a
two-out homer -- his 10th -- for a 5-0 lead. Castro was in the lineup
for Paul Lo Duca, who is 1-for-20 lifetime against Kim and took the
day off.

The crowd chanted "Let's go Mets!" as Carlos Delgado walked
with the bases loaded to put New York ahead 6-1 in the seventh.
Luis Castillo's two-out infield single scored a run in the eighth.

Said Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez: "At least we got some
people in the stands."

Game notes
Marlins LF Josh Willingham sat out because of a stiff back
and likely won't play Sunday. ... Kim struck out in the third and
is 1-for-30 this year. ... 3B Wright robbed Cabrera of a hit with a
backhand stop and one-hop throw from four steps into foul territory
in the sixth.