Game 5 loss puts Mets on the brink

Tom Glavine had joked that he hoped he would do something to impress Albert Pujols in Game 5, particularly after the Cardinals slugger opined that Glavine "wasn't very good" over seven shutout innings in the series opener.

But after Glavine lasted just four innings and surrendered a home run to Pujols in his second start of the National League Championship Series, Pujols and the Cardinals may have free reign to speak their minds.

The Mets' backs went up against the wall with a 4-2 loss in St. Louis Tuesday, leaving New York staring at a 3-2 series deficit and possible elimination as the series returns to Shea Stadium on Wednesday.

The Mets jumped ahead in the fourth inning when Jose Valentin ripped a two-run double to right field, but that would be the end of New York's offensive showing against Cardinals starter Jeff Weaver, who limited the Mets' potent lineup to two runs for the second time in the series.

In the bottom of the fourth, Glavine's 16-inning postseason scoreless streak came to an end, and the left-hander's night soon followed suit.

With one out, Glavine appeared to have Pujols fouled out on a 1-1 pitch that eluded first baseman Carlos Delgado, then struck out on a 2-2 pitch, but the southpaw did not get the call from home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg.

Glavine followed the sequence by trying to go away on the right-handed hitting Pujols, but the offering got too much of the plate as Pujols ripped a deep drive to left field, clearing the wall with his first home run of the NLCS, past a leap by outfielder Endy Chavez.

"I thought it might stay in," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "We've been pitching him pretty tough and handling him pretty well. I was hoping and praying that ball would stay fair. I don't know how far it was away from Carlos, but that seems like when things kind of opened up a little bit."

In the same inning, Glavine – far more inefficient (80 pitches, 40 for strikes) than he had been in his Game 1 start, even though a rainout bumped him to full rest for Game 5 – surrendered a game-tying single to Ronnie Belliard, bringing home Scott Rolen as St. Louis evened the game at 2-2.

The Cardinals took the lead and chased Glavine in a fifth inning where the veteran failed to record an out, leaving after three runs, seven hits, three walks and two strikeouts.

Preston Wilson doubled home David Eckstein to take the lead, and after an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, Mets relievers Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano worked out of a bases-loaded, none-out situation with only the one run scoring, another huge performance turned in by the Mets bullpen.

But with Weaver now cruising and spinning zeroes – and the Mets lamenting missed opportunities to crack through against the excitable right-hander in both the first and fourth innings, when Weaver's mound composure appeared in question – the balance of the game appeared to have shifted in the home team's favor.

Weaver finished the 95-pitch effort tossing six innings of two-run, six hit ball, walking two and striking out one.

"I think one advantage of playing a team in a long series like this is the opportunity to pitch twice," Weaver said. "You get a pretty good read off of their approach last time. You know, you can go and do your homework and even have a better game plan than the first time. So I knew what they had hit before."

The kicker came in the sixth when Cardinals manager Tony La Russa elected to send up the left-handed hitting Chris Duncan to face New York's left-hander Feliciano, a one-out pinch-hitter to bat for Weaver. Duncan responded by homering inside the right field foul pole, giving St. Louis the two-run margin of victory.

"I was just trying to get ready to go whenever he was going to use me," Duncan said. "I had a feeling my pinch-hit might come earlier in the game and just happened to be off a left-hander, and I just wanted to put together a good at-bat."

As has been a resounding theme for most of the series, New York was unable to piece together an attack against the Cardinals bullpen over their final nine outs.

The Mets went quietly in the seventh against Josh Kinney and wasted a second-and-third, one-out situation in the eighth when Shawn Green flied out and, facing closer Adam Wainwright, Jose Valentin struck out looking to strand Carlos Delgado and David Wright aboard with the tying runs.

Wainwright completed a four-out save by striking out Jose Reyes on a nasty, diving curveball in the top of the ninth inning, sending the series back to New York with the Mets' backs against the wall against defending NL Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter.

"It doesn't feel any different," Randolph said. "(We need to) go out and win a ballgame, a couple of games actually, and we're looking forward to doing that. It doesn't feel any different as a coach, player or manager. It's a matter of getting a win (Wednesday) and getting a win on Thursday and going from there."

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