"I was thinking I could cut off the run at home plate to protect that shutout," Delgado said. "Great performance by Pelfrey tonight."
The ninth-inning run scored, but it hardly mattered because Delgado was on his game, too. He hit a pair of three-run homers and helped turn three double plays as Pelfrey pitched his second successive complete game to give the New York Mets a 9-1 victory against the Houston Astros on Monday night.
Jose Reyes had a two-run triple among his three hits, and Pelfrey came within two outs of his first major league shutout. The six-hitter followed his first career complete game, when he allowed three hits in a 6-3 victory against Atlanta last Wednesday.
With a crowd of 49,791 chanting his name, Pelfrey (13-8) became the first Mets pitcher with back-to-back complete-game victories since Bret Saberhagen in 1995.
"He has tremendous, tremendous confidence right now," New York manager Jerry Manuel said. "When he takes the mound he's throwing filthy, filthy stuff."
After splitting a four-game series with the Astros, New York now heads to Philadelphia for a two-game set between the top teams in the NL East. The first-place Mets, who lead the Phillies by a half-game, continue the road trip at Florida and Milwaukee, both playoff contenders.
If the Mets are going to come out of this difficult stretch atop the division, they'll have to do it without starter John Maine. He's sidelined at least two weeks with a bone spur in his right shoulder.
"John Maine's a big part of this team," Pelfrey said. "We can't replace him."
Delgado's homer in the first off Brian Moehler (9-5) barely sneaked over the wall in the left-field corner, but his drive off Wesley Wright in the seventh was sent emphatically over the 410-foot sign in center.
"Guess the ball was carrying," Delgado said after his 46th multihomer game and fourth this year.
And, unlike earlier this season when he refused a curtain call, Delgado acknowledged the rollicking fans by climbing onto the top step of the dugout and tipping his helmet.
"I didn't think it was the right time (then)," Delgado said. "Six RBIs, a couple of homers. I think it's the right time."
Hours after Maine was put on the disabled list and Mets general manager Omar Minaya said others will have to "step up," Pelfrey did just that, striking out six without walking a batter. He threw 108 pitches for the second outing in a row.
"That's probably as good a performance as I've seen against us this year," Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. "He was just a monster tonight."
There was talk that the Mets would give the 24-year-old right-hander extra rest in the next couple of weeks when the team has two days off, but Manuel nixed that idea, saying: "We are in a fight for our lives."
Pelfrey is ready to oblige, even though his 163 innings this season are more than double the highest major league output of his three-year career.
"I feel great. I want to help the team," Pelfrey said. "Whenever they give me the ball, I'm going to take it."
Pelfrey gave up hits to the leadoff batter in the second, fourth and eighth innings but got double-play grounders from the next batter to quickly quash each potential rally. In the fifth, he gave up a one-out double to Geoff Blum but induced a groundout from Hunter Pence and struck out Michael Bourn.
He got another double play in the eighth after allowing Blum's second hit.
"My sinker was very good," Pelfrey said, "and the guys playing behind me played very good."
Delgado said it was Pelfrey that made them better.
"Big difference is when the guy's pounding the zone, throwing strikes," he said. "It keeps the defense more alert."
Pelfrey walked in the eighth and scored from first -- standing up -- on Reyes' two-run triple to make it 9-0. Reyes also doubled and scored twice.
"When I got in, I regretted it. My hamstrings were tight and my quads hurt," Pelfrey said.
Pelfrey yielded a double and single in the ninth, putting runners at the corners. Ty Wigginton's RBI groundout to first broke up the shutout bid.
Mets second baseman Luis Castillo, who had been out with a strained hip flexor since July 3, returned from the DL and went 0-for-4 with a walk. He also made a diving grab of a liner by Humberto Quintero in the third.
Moehler lost for the first time since July 4 against Atlanta, a span of nine starts. He gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings.
- The Mets have gone over 4 million tickets sold for the first time. This is their final season at Shea Stadium, which holds 57,365. Their new home, Citi Field, will have room for about 12,000 less.