Valdez wins his 100th game

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Florida Marlins were upbeat after defeating
the New York Mets, joking with each other while Frank Sinatra's
"Luck Be a Lady" played on the clubhouse stereo.

It's more than luck that's got the defending World Series champs
feeling confident these days. It has more to do with clutch hits
and outstanding relief pitching.

"This is the way we need to play the rest of the way," manager
Jack McKeon said.

Paul Lo Duca hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the sixth inning,
Mike Lowell homered and the Marlins won their sixth straight with a
5-4 come-from-behind victory Wednesday night.

"It's almost like it was last season -- we know we can come
back," McKeon said.

Florida, which began the day three games behind Chicago and San
Francisco in the NL wild-card race, won for the ninth time in 11
games to move seven games over .500 for the first time since June

"We're going to be in this thing," McKeon said.

Ismael Valdez (12-7) won his third game in five starts since the
Marlins acquired him from San Diego at the trade deadline. He
allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings for his 100th
major league victory.

Guillermo Mota got five outs, and Armando Benitez entered to
boos from the crowd of 19,621 at Shea Stadium before pitching a
perfect ninth for his NL-leading 40th save. The former Mets closer
has 10 saves against New York this season.

"I'm just trying to do my job," Benitez said.

Benitez hasn't allowed a hit to the 30 batters he's faced since
returning from the disabled list on Aug. 13, and has pitched 12 2-3
consecutive scoreless innings.

"He's the best reliever," Valdez said. "He's amazing. He
closes the door, big-time."

Wilson Delgado tied a career high with three hits -- including
his first homer in almost two years -- and drove in a career-high
four runs for the Mets, who have lost five straight and 10 of 11.

"He was the one real bright spot for us offensively," Mets
manager Art Howe said.

With the Marlins trailing 4-3 with two outs in the sixth, Lo
Duca gave them the lead against Tom Glavine (9-11).

Juan Encarnacion hit a leadoff single, but was erased on Alex
Gonzalez's groundout. Mike Mordecai, pinch-hitting for Valdez, sent
a liner down the right-field line for a double to put runners on
second and third. After getting Juan Pierre on a grounder back to
the mound, Glavine walked Damion Easley to load the bases.

Lo Duca followed with a liner into center field that gave the
Marlins a 5-4 lead.

"I had two bad at-bats before that against him and I told
myself to almost jam myself against him, and it worked," Lo Duca

The Mets loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half
against reliever Nate Bump, but Rudy Seanez came in and got Gerald
Williams to pop out behind the plate and pinch-hitter Craig Brazell
grounded out to end the inning.

"I told him he deserved the game ball more than I do," said
Valdez, who kept the ball as a souvenir of his milestone victory.
"He came in and that was the game right there."

Delgado gave the Mets a 4-3 lead in the fourth with his first
homer since Sept. 26, 2002, when he hit one off Milwaukee's Andrew
Lorraine while with St. Louis.

Delgado went 3-for-4 and has been getting extended playing time
with Kaz Matsui on the disabled list, possibly for the rest of the

"I feel more comfortable every day," Delgado said. "Right
now, they're giving me the opportunity to play and I'm doing

David Wright and Jason Phillips hit consecutive singles leading
off the inning, and Delgado sent a 3-2 pitch from Valdez into the
bullpen in right field.

The Marlins took a quick 2-0 lead in the first against Glavine.

Pierre and Easley opened the game with singles and advanced on
Lo Duca's sacrifice. Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked to
load the bases, but Glavine walked Lowell to force in a run.

Jeff Conine followed with a sacrifice fly to left to drive in

Delgado cut it to 2-1 in the second with a two-out RBI double.

The Marlins regained their two-run lead on Lowell's 25th homer
in the third.

Glavine allowed five runs and eight hits in six innings.

"I made a mistake on Lo Duca and that was the game," he said.

Game notes
The Marlins are 12-3 against the Mets this year -- including
seven straight wins. Florida, which clinched its fourth straight
road series, has won a club-record six straight at Shea Stadium.
... Florida 2B Luis Castillo missed his third straight start after
getting hit on the right foot by a pitch Sunday. ... Mets CF Mike
Cameron was home resting with a viral infection that's caused him
to miss four straight starts.