By Mike Steffanos
Mets 4 - Cardinals 2
NLCS Tied 3-3
John Maine facing Chris Carpenter was supposed to be an overmatch. Tony LaRussa bragged about Carpenter after game 5, while the pundits wondered whether Maine would wilt under the pressure. Everything seemed to be going the Redbird's way in the first when a Spiezio single followed by a Pujols double had 2 runners in scoring position with no outs. Maine came back to strikeout Jim Edmonds and, after hitting Encarnacion to load the bases, ended the threat by getting Scott Rolen to fly out to right.
Jose Reyes, who sparked the offense all night and played solid defensively, had a Lenny Dykstra moment, driving Carpenter's third pitch of the game out to right center to give the Mets the lead. The Cardinals managed to get 2 on with one out again in the third, but Maine got Edmonds to fly out and struck out Encarnacion to end that one. The Mets struck again in the in the fourth when Green singled home Beltran, but again struggled to get 2-out hits to pad their lead. Maine had an impressive fifth, striking out Pujols on a couple of good sliders.
In the top of the sixth, approaching 100 pitches, Maine walked Edmonds leading off the inning. He retired Encarnacion on a soft fly to left, and Willie decided Maine's work was done. Chad Bradford came in and induced a 6-4-3 double play that featured an amazing turn by Jose Valentin. Edmonds was running on the play and slid hard into Valentin, who sidestepped him neatly and still had time to nail Rolen at first.
Bradford stayed in to start the seventh and allowed a leadoff single to Ronnie Belliard. After Yadier Molina was retired for the first out, LaRussa sent up Chris Duncan to pinch hit. Instead of bringing in Feliciano, who gave up a homer to Duncan yesterday, Willie brought in Mota, who induced an inning ending double play. In the bottom of the frame, the Mets finally got a big 2-out hit when La Duca singled home Tucker and Reyes to put the Mets up 4-0. Turns out they would need those runs. Although Heilman was impressive in a scoreless eighth, Wagner was far from impressive in allowing 2 runs on 3 hits in the ninth and bringing the tying run to the plate. Fortunately he retired Eckstein for the final out, but made us all sweat in a game where that shouldn't have happened. He didn't seem to trust his fastball tonight, and hung several sliders. Ugly.
He walked 4 guys, and was definitely nervous in the first, but he held it together and gave the team 5-1/3 scoreless innings. He struck out 5 and allowed only 2 Cardinals hits. He had that good high fastball working, and showed an excellent slider at times. He made Pujols look foolish on one. Despite the walks, he threw a decent amount of strikes -- 54 out of 98 pitches. It was a game to grow on, and should stand this kid well down the road.
While Wright continues to struggle with a single in 4 at bats, Reyes got the Mets going with the homer, and finished 3-4 with a pair of runs scored. That's how it works on a team, when one star struggles another must pick him up.
Along with Maine's remarkable poise, terrific defense all night was the difference for the Mets. And now, despite the prognostications, there is a tomorrow after all.