Delgado, Mets rally past Braves with big 8th

Published 9:48 pm Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NEW YORK – Carlos Delgado hit a go-ahead double off the left-center fence to end the Mets’ long stretch of bases-loaded futility, and New York broke loose in the eighth inning to rally past the Atlanta Braves 7-3 Tuesday night.

Damion Easley delivered a two-run single with the sacks full and Ramon Castro added an RBI double to cap a five-run eighth against Atlanta’s bullpen.

Delgado’s clutch hit snapped New York’s 3-for-42 skid with the bases loaded.

One night after their six-game winning streak was snapped in Pittsburgh, the Mets won for the 10th time in 13 games and maintained their 1½-game lead in the NL East over Philadelphia.

New York received a strong effort from its unsteady bullpen, including newcomer Luis Ayala, after getting more bad news about All-Star Billy Wagner.

An MRI earlier in the day showed the injured closer has increased swelling in his left elbow, so he’s out indefinitely. The Mets don’t know when he might be able to return to the mound, if at all, this season.

The eighth-inning outburst left Scott Schoeneweis to close this one out with a one-hit ninth in a non-save situation. Aaron Heilman (3-7) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Oliver Perez kept New York in the game by allowing three runs in 6 1-3 innings against a lineup that had Omar Infante batting cleanup. Infante has three home runs this season.

With the Braves trying to hold on for their first one-run win on the road since Aug. 9 last year at Shea Stadium, Jeff Bennett (2-5) walked consecutive batters with one out in the eighth.

Carlos Beltran’s dribbler for an infield single brought up Delgado, who popped out with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning Monday, keeping the score tied.

This time, he drove left-hander Will Ohman’s pitch the other way and clapped his hands as he cruised into second with the Mets up 4-3.

Easley singled off Julian Tavarez, and Castro’s double made it 7-3.

Starting pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes stymied the Mets in his return from the minors, but Atlanta has lost eight of nine to fall a season-worst 14 games under .500.

The Mets improved to 3-7 this year against the Braves. The longtime rivals met for the first time since May 22 in Atlanta, where the Braves finished a four-game sweep that left them ahead of New York in the standings.

The teams have gone in opposite directions since.

New York gave Perez a 2-0 lead, scoring in the first inning for the ninth time in 12 games.

Jose Reyes drew a leadoff walk from Jo-Jo Reyes, went to third on Nick Evans’ single and scored when David Wright hit a sacrifice fly. Fernando Tatis added a two-out RBI double.

Jo-Jo Reyes settled down from there, allowing only one more hit. He struck out five and walked three in six innings, retiring 13 of his final 14 batters.

Atlanta went ahead with three runs in the third. Perez walked leadoff batter Gregor Blanco, who scored on Chipper Jones’ single. Brian McCann had an RBI groundout with the bases loaded and Jeff Francoeur added a sacrifice fly.

Ayala made his Mets debut in the seventh, taking the ball with runners at the corners from Perez, his buddy from Mexico. Ayala knocked down Infante with his first pitch and escaped the jam by inducing a popup and an easy fly.

Ayala was acquired Sunday from Washington for a player to be named.

Notes: Jones, who leads the majors with a .365 batting average, has hit safely in all 10 games since coming off the disabled list. … To make room for Jo-Jo Reyes, the Braves placed reserve INF Ruben Gotay on the 15-day DL with a strained left hamstring. … Oft-injured LHP Mike Hampton, the 2000 NLCS MVP with the Mets, is scheduled to start the series finale Thursday night for Atlanta against Pedro Martinez. … The Mets have scored 99 first-inning runs.