But when it came time to swing the bats Friday, the Mets were ready in the ninth inning.
Delgado walked four times before hitting go-ahead double, the first of five hits in a four-run rally against Ryan Dempster that lifted New York over the Cubs 6-2 and extended the Mets' winning streak to three.
The loss, coupled with the Milwaukee Brewers' 2-1 win over Philadelphia, dropped the Cubs a game back in the NL Central.
"When we score runs, it is usually because we're patient and make the pitchers work," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "We waited a while before we got some big hits. But in the ninth we got a bunch of clutch two-out hits. ... We had a chance to pour it on, and did."
New York walked 11 times, seven issued by Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano.
"He was a little bit more wild than usual," Delgado said.
Zambrano failed in his bid to become the major leagues' first 15 game-winner and was forced out in the sixth inning by heat-related cramps.
"He's a power throwing guy, and every once in a while things will get away from him," Randolph said. "You hope you catch guys on those days. To beat a good pitcher you have to get some help from him. He was just a little bit erratic."
So was Dempster, who earlier this season gave up five ninth-inning runs against the Mets at Shea Stadium.
"They're good hitters. If I didn't face the Mets this year, I'd have a heck of a year" Dempster said. "I can't give up four runs in one inning. I'm not that bad. I'm better than that."
Delgado's double off Dempster (2-4) followed a leadoff walk to David Wright as the Mets (62-47) moved 15 games over .500 for the first time since early June. Delgado scored on Shawn Green's two-out double inside the third-base line for a 4-2 lead.
Green came in on an RBI single by Ruben Gotay, pinch-hitter Moises Alou singled and Jose Reyes got the Mets' fifth hit of the inning, another run-scoring single that led to boos among the 41,512 fans at Wrigley Field.
Guillermo Mota (1-0) pitched out of an eighth-inning jam to gain his first major league win since serving a 50-game suspension for a positive steroid test.
Zambrano gave up two hits, including a homer to Ramon Castro, and tied a career high by walking seven in five-plus innings.
He said the heat that caused parts of his arms and a leg to cramp up had nothing to do with his wildness. He blamed his problem on dehydration.
"I don't like to drink too much water, and I have to start doing that," said Zambrano, who'd had a heat-related headache in a game against the Giants last month, when he lasted just five innings.
Mets starter Orlando Hernandez allowed two runs and five hits, including a sixth-inning homer by Derrek Lee. Jason Kendall hit a two-out RBI double off the ivy-covered wall in left to tie the game at 2-2 in the seventh, finishing El Duque, who struck out nine and walked one.
"It was hot. In the seventh inning, I felt a little tired, you know. I wanted to stay on the mound after the double, but I respect the decision of the manager," Hernandez said. "I wanted to try for one more out, you know."
Lee reached third in the bottom of the inning after a single, stolen base and throwing error on Castro before Aramis Ramirez flied out against Mota.
Wright singled for the Mets' first hit with two outs in the fifth and Delgado drew the Mets' seventh walk to load the bases. Zambrano got out of the jam by striking out Anderson, then pumped his fist wildly and made a spin move in front of the mound.
As Zambrano warmed up to start the sixth, manager Lou Piniella stood near the third base line and watched to see how the right-hander was feeling.
Zambrano gave up the homer to Castro and had a 1-1 count on Green when trainer Mark O'Neal and Piniella came to mound. After a brief chat, Piniella took the ball and called on Marmol.
Zambrano threw 93 pitches on a comfortable 77-degree day with the wind blowing in.
Lee's 12th homer was a two-out solo shot off Hernandez that tied the game in the sixth. Castro's ninth homer had put the Mets ahead in the top of the inning.
- Zambrano also walked seven against the Astros on Aug. 14 last year.
- David Newhan started in left field for the Mets and made a nice running catch of Ryan Theriot's liner in the eighth.
- Cubs RHP Kerry Wood, activated from the DL before the game, warmed up in the bullpen in the seventh inning and fans began to cheer at the beginning of the eighth, only to have Howry come in and pitch.