Worth the wait: Delgado fuels Mets in first playoff game

NEW YORK (AP) -- Carlos Delgado hammered the ball all over the
field in his playoff debut. David Wright also delivered, and the
pitching-depleted New York Mets looked like October regulars during
their first postseason game since 2000.

Minus two top starters, the Mets capitalized on a wild
baserunning blunder by Los Angeles and a perfectly respectable
performance from emergency replacement John Maine in a 6-5 victory
Wednesday over the Dodgers.

Billy Wagner closed Game 1 of this NL series for his first
postseason save, fanning Nomar Garciaparra with a runner on second
for the final out.

"A lot of guys have been waiting for this time in their life,
and I think everybody stepped up today," said 34-year-old catcher
Paul Lo Duca, another newcomer to the playoffs.

Playing in the first postseason game of his 14-year career,
Delgado had four hits, a mammoth homer and the go-ahead RBI in the
seventh inning.

Wright drove in three runs, helping the Mets jump ahead in the
best-of-five series.

"I was very excited," Delgado said. "I had butterflies in my
stomach the first couple innings. I was saying, 'Whoa, what is
going on here?' But I was able to kind of control my emotions and
just go out and play."

Game 2 is Thursday night, with rookie left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo
on the mound for the wild-card Dodgers against 290-game winner Tom
Glavine. Kuo pitched six shutout innings at Shea Stadium on Sept. 8
for his only major league win.

"We haven't quit all season long, especially these last couple
months," Los Angeles manager Grady Little said. "We'll keep
coming at you."

The Mets started a rookie of their own in the opener after
Orlando Hernandez tore a muscle in his right calf while jogging in
the outfield Tuesday. He is expected to miss the entire postseason.

Already without injured ace Pedro Martinez, New York scrambled
Tuesday night to find a healthy, rested starter and picked Maine,
an afterthought in the offseason trade that sent Kris Benson to
Baltimore for reliever Jorge Julio.

The 25-year-old Maine went 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA for the NL East
champions, who tied the crosstown Yankees for the best record in
baseball at 97-65.

Yet he probably would have been left out of the playoff rotation
altogether if Martinez hadn't gone down.

"My nerves I think were worse in the second inning than they
were in the first," Maine said. "It wasn't too bad."

Lifted with a 2-1 lead in the fifth, Maine got a break on a
bizarre play when the Dodgers had two runners cut down at home
plate in the second.

With two on and none out, rookie Russell Martin hit an
opposite-field drive off the base of the right-field wall. But Jeff
Kent hesitated at second base, apparently thinking the ball might
be caught, and got an extremely late jump.

That left J.D. Drew, who was on first, practically running up
Kent's back as coach Rich Donnelly waved one -- or both -- around
third. A quick, accurate relay from right fielder Shawn Green to
second baseman Jose Valentin to Lo Duca nailed Kent, who attempted
a headfirst dive into the plate.

"If I hold him, we've got two guys at third base," Donnelly
said. "I was hoping they'd throw the ball away. I didn't really
want to send Jeff. J.D. was right behind him, and I thought, one's
going to be out and one's going to be safe."

Drew was left in no-man's land, trapped about halfway between
third and home. Yet Lo Duca, who got spun around on the play at the
plate, didn't realize that at first as he struggled to his feet.

With Lo Duca unaware for a moment, Drew tried to sneak his way
in. But the catcher turned his head, suddenly noticed Drew bearing
down on him and applied a second tag as Drew also tried a headfirst

"We've been in L.A. all season long. We know about traffic
jams. We certainly had one again right there," Little said.
"That's a trick play we work on in spring training."

It was the kind of sequence you often see in a Hollywood movie,
but rarely on a major league field.

"We got two for the price of one," Valentin said.

Marlon Anderson followed with an RBI double for a 1-0 lead, but
that was all the Dodgers got after running themselves out of a
potentially big inning.

Aaron Heilman worked a perfect eighth for New York, which plans
to rely heavily on its deep bullpen all series. Wagner allowed an
RBI double to pinch-hitter Ramon Martinez in the ninth before
striking out Garciaparra.

"We needed this game, as far as momentum goes," Wright said.
"We have a team full of igniters. When a couple of these guys get
going, it rubs off."

With the score tied at 4, Little brought starter Brad Penny out
of the bullpen in the seventh. Penny, bothered by a bad back and
3-10 lifetime against the Mets with a 6.16 ERA, walked two of his
first three batters.

Delgado put the Mets ahead with an opposite-field single, then
gave a huge fist pump after rounding first.

"I was pretty fired up," he said.

Delgado had played the most games of any active player without
reaching the postseason. He also was No. 1 on the active home run
list without a playoff appearance.

"It's nice to see him finally get an opportunity on this stage
and come through," Randolph said.

Wright's bloop double made it 6-4.

The Dodgers tied it at 4-all with three runs in the seventh
against reliever Guillermo Mota.

Anderson got the rally going with a bunt single, and a throwing
error by second baseman Valentin helped Los Angeles. Rafael
Furcal's RBI single made it 4-2, and Garciaparra's two-out, two-run
double tied it.

Delgado's fourth-inning drive landed on top of an elevated
camera stand behind the center-field fence and was estimated at 470
feet. Cliff Floyd, hobbled by a score Achilles' heel, added his
first postseason homer later in the inning for a 2-1 Mets lead.

Wright hit a two-run double off starter Derek Lowe in the sixth
to make it 4-1, and gave an enthusiastic fist pump of his own.

Game notes
Dodgers Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax watched the game
from a box with Mets owner Fred Wilpon. The two were high school
teammates growing up in Brooklyn.