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Delgado Makes It Count

The veteran first baseman seizes occasion of his first postseason game, getting four hits, including a home run, to lead the Mets.

October 05, 2006|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — By Wednesday afternoon, 1,711 major league games had come and gone for Carlos Delgado, not a single one in the playoffs.

One of the skilled hitters of his generation, Delgado had not felt the weight of those at-bats, those late innings, or the elation of the well-struck ball when one October game is played alone, and in its own time slot.

"About 13 years," he said. "But, who's counting?"

The previous 24 hours had belonged to Derek Jeter, who a borough over put a five for five on the Detroit Tigers, inspiring one of the local papers to dub him "Mr. Perfect." Alex Rodriguez, by contrast, was lauded for not throwing up.

The next 24 hours went to the 34-year-old Delgado, who had four hits against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, one that carried so far it might have landed in Mr. Perfect's lap.

In the New York Mets' 6-5 victory, against a defense playing him to pull and a seemingly incongruous strategy of pitching him away, Delgado singled through the left side in the first inning, homered 470 feet to center field in the fourth and singled to right-center field in the sixth, all against sinkerballer Derek Lowe. In the seventh, when the Mets went ahead for good, Delgado drove in the go-ahead run with another left-center field single, this against starter-turned-reliever Brad Penny.

So, maybe it's not just the Yankees' October here, not just Jeter's city. Delgado drove the ball middle-left most of the game, and drove an offense that got little from the top of its order early or the bottom at all, or until Jonathan Broxton puffed a 100-mph fastball past him to end the eighth. At least Hong-Chih Kuo has his scouting report for tonight: soft away, triple-digits in.

Many teams, Mets Manager Willie Randolph said, align their shifts harder right than the Dodgers do, pitch him similarly, and sometimes Delgado will adjust his swing to take advantage. Lowe's pitches -- sinkers and sliders -- and Delgado's first-timer approach -- "I just kept telling myself, 'Don't try to do too much,' " he said -- basically landed on the barrel of Delgado's bat.

"I was hoping he would do more of that," Randolph said. "I was going to say something, but obviously he was ahead of me."

The home run was a monster, landing atop a three-story television structure just to the left of dead center field. It was the first run for the Mets, tied the score, 1-1, and led two batters later to Cliff Floyd's homer to right field. The Dodgers finished with more hits (11-9) and as many extra-base hits (four), but, not surprisingly, were out-homered (2-0).

"I was very excited," Delgado said. "I mean, 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."

When he arrived at the plate after his home run, he found on-deck hitter David Wright with his hand outstretched.

"For the record," Wright said, "he definitely did not control his emotions. Almost took my arm off."

They were an excitable group. Floyd, who had two playoff at-bats before Wednesday, drove with his father, Cliff Sr., to the game, pulled into the parking lot, then turned to him in the passenger seat.

"How did we get here?" he asked him.

"You drove, boy!" Pops told him.

Floyd laughed.

"I was just nervous," he said.

And Paul Lo Duca, who was on the receiving end of the Dodgers' third base coach trampling of the second inning, played in his first postseason game after 896 regular-season games. He singled twice and nudged rookie John Maine through 4 1/3 passable innings.

All in all, the Mets got through the loss of Orlando Hernandez for the moment, put up six runs, generally caught the ball, and kept their spacing on the basepaths. It was enough to take a one-love lead, to put them one game closer to the NL Championship Series, and to support Delgado on a day for which he'd waited for a very, very long time.

But, who's counting?

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