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NEW YORK -- As the Mets prepare to host the Marlins for a three-game series starting Friday night, they will certainly have some momentum.

 

David Wright's walk-off home run on Thursday afternoon gave New York a series win against San Diego, a team that has given it problems all season. The Mets are looming just one-half game behind the Marlins for second place in the National League East.

 

"They took two out of three from us in Florida, so we've got to keep that in the back of our mind and go out there and play to win the division," Wright said. "This is a time when we've got to make a move."

 

But the Mets have a challenge standing in their way -- the final two innings. New York's bullpen has struggled without closer Billy Wagner, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a strained left forearm.

 

When reliever Aaron Heilman was sent to the mound with a lead in the ninth inning on Tuesday night, he gave up a three-run homer that brought the Padres within one run. Left-hander Scott Schoeneweis surrendered a solo home run to tie the game on Thursday.

 

"We do have to solve our issues late in the game," manager Jerry Manuel said. "All we're waiting on is for one or two guys to step up."

 

Wright said it's up to offense to provide run support and take some of the pressure off the relievers when they head out to the mound.

 

"I think we, as an offense, have to do a better job giving them more of a cushion late in the game," he said. "It's obviously magnified if our reliever comes in and gives up a game-tying home run when we're only up one run."

 

Without a specific closer, Manuel has tried to shuffle the bullpen and find the right spots for his relievers. And despite the problems the bullpen has seen in recent games, Manuel has found a bright side.

 

"If we can struggle and win games, I'm all right," he said. "While we're struggling with this and winning games, it's a good thing, because we're going to eventually figure it out."

Pitching matchup

NYM: LHP Oliver Perez (7-7, 4.12 ERA)

Manuel would have preferred to use Perez on Saturday on an extra day of rest, but the absence of disabled righty John Maine and the fact that Perez threw merely 77 pitches in his most recent start, on Sunday in Houston, prompted the manager to change his thinking. Perez will start on Friday against the team he has beaten twice in three starts this season. He has a 2-2 record -- but the Mets' record is 5-2 -- in his seven most recent starts. His ERA in that period is 1.97.

 

FLA: RHP Ricky Nolasco (11-6, 3.91 ERA)

Nolasco was pretty close to a complete game in a win against the Rockies on Saturday, but he'll settle for a solid eight-inning effort. Nolasco gave up three runs off four hits while striking out a career-high 13 and walking none. The 25-year-old's only flaw was not being able to figure out Matt Holliday, who was responsible for two of the runs and three of the hits. Other than that, and a 22-pitch first inning that saw him give up a run, Nolasco was unhittable. He finished retiring the last seven hitters in order and threw 93 pitches. It was his first win in five starts.

 

Tidbits

The Mets announced on Thursday that the club has sold a record 3,863,542 tickets for the 2008 season, the third straight year the Mets have set a franchise ticket sales record. They are averaging 50,671 fans per game through 53 home games. ... With a double in the fifth inning Thursday, Wright moved into a tie for seventh place on the club's all-time list with 170 two-baggers. ... Daniel Murphy recorded his second straight multi-hit game and third straight with an RBI. Since he was called up Saturday, Murphy is batting .467.

 

This date in Mets history -- Aug. 8: A two-run single by Donn Clendenon was the critical hit in a three-run rally in the ninth inning that carried the Mets to a 4-1 victory against the Braves in Atlanta in the first game of a doubleheader on this date in 1969. A single by Felipe Alou off Ron Taylor in the 10th inning drove in Clete Boyer with the decisive run in the Braves' 1-0 victory in the second game. ... Jon Matlack allowed two singles and two walks in a complete-game performance in the Mets' 1-0 victory against the Dodgers in Los Angeles in 1973. ... On this date in 1988, 10 days after Bobby Ojeda had shut out the Pirates, 1-0, at Shea Stadium, Rick Reed pitched eight scoreless innings in his big league debut in a 1-0 Pirates victory against Ojeda at Three Rivers Stadium.

 

 

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