Mets Down Cards in Game 1 Pitchers' Duel

Friday, October 13th 2006, 5:01 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) The New York Mets were supposed to have pitching problems in the postseason. Tom Glavine is taking care of that. Sharp and deceptive as ever, Glavine put the depleted Mets on his 40 year old back again Thursday night to give New York the lead in the NL championship series.

Carlos Beltran rocked Shea Stadium with a homer that crashed off the scoreboard, backing another gem by Glavine as the Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 in Game 1.

``He sets the tone. He has that calm demeanor. It gives you that sense of security,'' Mets closer Billy Wagner said.

Making his 34th postseason start, Glavine shut down Albert Pujols and allowed only 4 harmless singles, running his scoreless streak to 13 innings in these playoffs.

Beltran, who wore out St. Louis in the NLCS with Houston two years ago, hit a 2 run shot off an otherwise impressive Jeff Weaver in the 6th inning. That was all the offense New York needed to win its 8th straight game, dating to the regular season.

``It pains me,'' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ``No way to suggest that he's a losing pitcher. ... Jeff was outstanding. So was Glavine. We hit too many balls in the air.''

After rain postponed the opener Wednesday night, the Cardinals bumped up ace Chris Carpenter, who will pitch on regular rest Friday night in Game 2. Rookie right hander John Maine is on the mound for the Mets.

Missing injured starters Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez, the Mets are counting heavily on Glavine as they chase their first World Series title in 20 years.

The cagey left hander has delivered in a big way.

He threw 6 scoreless innings in Game 2 of the 1st round, helping the Mets to a 3 game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the 2 time Cy Young Award winner, who waited 4 seasons to reach the playoffs with New York after doing so year after year in Atlanta, was just as good against St. Louis.

``I understand the importance of when I pitch now. But at the same time, I'm trying my best to mentally play games with myself and dismiss that,'' Glavine said. ``I don't want to go out there with any added pressure.''

Boosted by 2 inning ending double plays and a sprawling catch from super sub Endy Chavez, Glavine was in control throughout. He struck out Pujols in the 1st, walked him in the 4th and retired him on a liner to shortstop in the 6th inning.

Still, the slugger wasn't impressed.

``He wasn't good. He wasn't good at all,'' Pujols said. ``I think we hit the ball hard. We didn't get some breaks.''

Guillermo Mota worked a hitless 8th to avoid facing Pujols himself, instead passing the reigning NL MVP along to Wagner in the 9th inning. But he got Pujols to line out to 1st, and Juan Encarnacion followed with a hard groundout.

Wagner then walked Scott Rolen, who is 1-14 this postseason, and retired pinch hitter Scott Spiezio on a popup for his 3rd save of the playoffs.

Glavine matched Andy Pettitte for the most postseason starts in major league history. Glavine also improved to 14-15 in the postseason, tying Pettitte for the 2nd most wins behind former Braves teammate John Smoltz (15).

``Tommy was the key,'' Mets manager Willie Randolph said. ``He's quiet, goes about his business and is one of the leaders on our staff.''

Weaver, cast off by the Los Angeles Angels in July, was nearly as good. He cruised through 5 2-3 innings, blanking the Mets' menacing lineup on 1 measly single.

But Paul Lo Duca bounced a hit through the left side in the 6th, and Beltran drove a 2-2 fastball an estimated 430 feet off the giant scoreboard in right center, the ball clanging off Jose Valentin's #18 in New York's batting order.

``Every time you do something in October it means a lot,'' Beltran said. ``Hitting the home run today, of course brings memories.''

It also woke up a relatively quiet crowd of 56,311 at Shea, which was plenty noisy during two home games in the division series, and left them chanting ``Wea-ver! Wea-ver!''

``I'd been feeding him fastballs all day and he finally caught up to one,'' Weaver said. ``If you would have told me I'd have allowed 1 hit through 5 innings, I would have liked our chances. But it just didn't go our way.''

The right hander knows all about tough crowds in New York after an unsuccessful stint with the Yankees from 2002-03, when he was often booed lustily in the Bronx. Weaver, lifted in the 6th after 98 pitches, is scheduled to come back on only 3 days' rest in Game 5, as is Glavine, who threw 89 pitches.

``There's no question I feel better about coming back on 3 days' rest with a small pitch count like I had tonight,'' Glavine said.

The Cardinals have seen all too much of Beltran in October. He batted .417 with 4 homers and 5 RBIs for the Astros in the 2004 NLCS, a series St. Louis won in 7 games.

Beltran also hit a game ending homer against the Cardinals in August.

``He's a big game guy,'' Randolph said. ``He has a beautiful swing.''

The winner of Game 1 in the NLCS has reached the World Series 12 of the last 13 years. The 2005 Cardinals were the exception.

The Mets lost left fielder Cliff Floyd after he aggravated his injured Achilles' tendon while running out a foul fly in the 2nd inning. He was to have an MRI on Friday and is day to day.

Poor baserunning by Pujols cost the Cardinals in the 4th, when he was doubled off 1st base by Beltran on Encarnacion's soft fly to a center.

``I can't make a mistake? Am I perfect?'' Pujols said.