ST. LOUIS (AP) _ First, Steve Trachsel was awful. Then, he got hurt. Now it's up to Oliver Perez _ yes, Oliver Perez _ to keep the New York Mets in the NL championship series.
Trachsel lasted just three outs and 43 mostly mediocre pitches in the Mets' 5-0 loss Saturday night, which gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven-series. New York's batters were just as brutal, getting only three hits and extending their scoreless streak to 12 innings.
``We're not going to panic,'' a dejected Trachsel said softly. ``We haven't panicked all season, so there's no reason to do that now.''
Pitching for the Mets for perhaps the final time, he gave up five hits and five walks, was charged with five runs and came out with a bruised right thigh one batter after Preston Wilson's comebacker, which was hit so hard that the ball ricocheted into short left field.
``It stiffened up so quickly, it kind of took me by surprise,'' Trachsel said.
He was a little bit in denial of his poor pitching before that, claiming: ``I wasn't missing by a lot. I was probably trying to be too fine, too early.'' He said Jeff Suppan's home run came off an 0-2 fastball that ``wasn't really a mistake.''
His bruise might as well be a symbol for the New York's playoff run, which has risen and fallen in a pattern resembling the Gateway Arch beyond center field at Busch Stadium.
With injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez, the Mets have just one dependable starter _ Tom Glavine, who has pitched 13 shutout innings in a pair of starts. But clearly, one is not enough.
John Maine and Trachsel have given up 11 earned runs in 12 2-3 innings, a 7.82 ERA.
And next up in Game 4 Sunday night is Perez, who went 3-13 for Pittsburgh and the Mets, who acquired him on July 31 with Roberto Hernandez in the Xavier Nady deal. Perez, who hasn't pitched since Oct. 1, will be only the second pitcher in baseball history to make a postseason start after going 10 games under .500 during the regular season _ the first since Arizona's Albie Lopez in 2001.
He'll be opposed by Anthony Reyes, who also hasn't pitched since the last day of the regular season.
``The guy they got pitching is kind of in the same boat,'' said David Wright, who dropped to 0-for-9 in the series. ``It's going to be a good matchup. It's two young guys going at it, trying to make a name for themselves.''
Thus far, the Mets have followed the pattern of the Yankees in the first round against Detroit. The pinstripes won their opener, wasted a lead in Game 2, then got shut out in Game 3 on the road.
Carlos Delgado rejected the comparison.
``Last time I checked, we had `Mets' in front of us, not `Yankees,' `` he said.
The way things are going, the best chance the Mets have to is make Glavine their everyday pitcher, emulating Charles ``Old Hoss'' Radbourn, who made 73 starts for the National League's Providence Grays in 1884. Depending on the record book, ``Old Hoss'' had 59 or 60 wins to go along with 12 losses, 73 complete games and 678 2-3 innings. He never topped 28 wins after that.
As it is, Glavine is scheduled to pitch on three days' rest in Game 5 on Sunday night. His last start on short rest was June 7 at Los Angeles, when he allowed seven hits _ three of them homers _ and six runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 9-7 win.
While he's 8-6 with 3.53 ERA in 25 regular-season starts on short rest, the 40-year-old left-hander is _ yikes! _ 2-5 with a 6.75 ERA in postseason starts without full rest.
But first comes Perez.
``Tomorrow, we win that, we tie it up,'' manager Willie Randolph said. ``We win three, we'll go to the World Series. That's the way I'm looking at it.''