NEW YORK -- Carlos Delgado is putting on such an impressive power display that he reminds Mets manager Jerry Manuel of another big hitter he once had.
"Albert Belle," Manuel said. "The second half of -- I forgot what year it was, but I think Albert had 37 homers after the All-Star break."
Delgado hit two impressive homers for the second straight game, Carlos Beltran had a go-ahead shot to reach 100 RBIs and the New York Mets increased their NL East lead by beating the scrappy Washington Nationals 10-8 Tuesday night.
Belle actually hit 31 homers after the break for Manuel's Chicago White Sox in 1998. But what separates Delgado's feat -- four multihomer games in the last 13 -- from Belle's is that it's coming during a pennant race.
"To be fighting for that and having that type of run is basically saying, 'I'm putting you on my shoulders,'" Manuel said.
And Mets fans are happily along for the ride, regaling Delgado, who was their object of scorn earlier in the season when he was slumping and also refused a curtain call, with increasingly louder calls of "MVP! MVP!"
The run has produced some gaudy numbers that makes him a legitimate candidate for the honor. After going 3-for-3 with three RBIs, Delgado has 68 RBIs in the last 66 games. He has raised his average from .228 on June 30 to .266 and helped the Mets take a 2½-game lead over the Phillies after trailing by 3½ on that last day of June.
"It's great to be able to contribute," Delgado said. "It's great to be able to help the team. I think we've got a great club. It's a great race. It's awesome."
Ryan Church also homered, Jose Reyes snapped an 0-for-15 slide with two hits and the Mets started a stretch of 12 games against the bottom two teams in the division with an offensive display that offset Oliver Perez's rough outing.
Every Mets starter except for Perez had a hit by the fourth inning, including David Wright, who took extra batting practice on the field with Manuel and hitting coach Howard Johnson. Wright was 4-for-21 coming in but had two hits and an RBI.
New York won when giving up eight or more runs for the third time this year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Mets beat Philadelphia 10-9 on July 7 and Cincinnati 10-8 on July 17.
Luis Ayala pitched a perfect ninth for his first save since the Mets learned Monday that Billy Wagner will have elbow ligament replacement surgery and miss the rest of the season and likely all of next year, too. It was Ayala's sixth save in seven chances since coming to the Mets last month in a trade with Washington.
Joe Smith (4-3), the fourth of seven Mets pitchers, worked 1 2-3 innings for the win.
"Their pitchers also had problems getting the outs until they got to Smith and finally Ayala," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "Smith was the key. He stopped us."
Delgado homered twice Sunday night in the second game of a doubleheader against the Phillies, sending one shot 460 feet. On Tuesday, his first home run, off John Lannan, smashed off the scoreboard in right-center, about 440 feet away.
Delgado's second homer followed Beltran's two-run drive that gave the Mets a 9-8 lead in the sixth, and the 50,382 fans at Shea Stadium sustained another chant of "MVP! MVP!" five pitches into Fernando Tatis' at-bat.
The back-to-back homers, the sixth time for the Mets this season, came off Charlie Manning (1-3).
"Two really bad pitches there. A fastball to Beltran up. Then a slider to Delgado I kind of hung, and right now he's locked in," Manning said. "I went out there to try to be aggressive but I let my team down."
Delgado's 35 homers this season give him 466 for his career, one more than Hall of Famer Dave Winfield for 30th place. He has seven multihomer games this year, matching Dave Kingman's club record set in 1976.
"I feel so happy that he's doing great after what he went through last year and the beginning of this year," Beltran said. "I'm not surprised."
The Mets went up 5-2 in the third behind Church's solo shot and Delgado's two-run drive. But the Nationals scored five times while batting around in the fourth to go ahead 7-5.
Perez's night ended after 3 1/3 innings, his shortest outing since being yanked after 1 2/3 innings on April 30, when he also gave up seven runs.
"I thought Oliver had good stuff but not good command," Manuel said.
Anderson Hernandez, the player to be named in the Ayala trade, had three RBIs for Washington.
The Mets began online registration for a random drawing for the sale of potential playoff tickets. Fans can register at Mets.com until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 15. Winners will be notified the following Thursday. ... Beltran reached 100 RBIs for the third straight season.