St. Louis (66-58) at New York (76-48)

Cloudy Currently: New York, NY
Temp: 70° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Wed Aug 23, 2006
  • TV: FSMW, SNY
Preview | Box Score | Recap

For the St. Louis Cardinals to make the playoffs, Mark Mulder may need to play a key role.

The two-time All-Star returns from the disabled list to make his first start in more than two months Wednesday when the Cardinals continue their three-game series with the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.

Mulder (6-5, 6.09 ERA), whose 88 wins from 2001-2005 were tied with Bartolo Colon for the most in the majors, opened the season 5-1 with a 3.69 ERA after defeating the Mets 1-0 on May 17 at Busch Stadium.

The left-hander struggled after that outing, however, going 1-4 with an 11.39 ERA in his next six starts before landing on the DL June 21 due to an injury in his throwing shoulder.

Mulder made three minor league rehab starts and gave up five runs in four innings in his last outing on Thursday for Triple-A Memphis, but said pain did not bother him and pronounced himself ready to go.

“My biggest concern is getting my arm ready to go out there and be able to throw 90-100 pitches in a game,” Mulder said. “I want to have the arm strength to be able to compete out there. My arm, as far as arm strength goes, is fine.”

While the Cardinals (66-58) hope to benefit from Mulder’s return, the Mets (76-48) may receive a boost from new acquisition Shawn Green. New York acquired the two-time All-Star outfielder, who is batting .283 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs this season, from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.

“I’m definitely excited for the opportunity,” said Green, who waived his no-trade clause. “I really like the Mets’ chances to go to the postseason and have a chance at the World Series.”

Green is 1-for-7 lifetime against Mulder, and is batting just .239 (21-for-88) in 25 career games at Shea, but is looking forward to the spotlight of the Big Apple.

“Had I played my whole career and never played in New York, I always would have wondered what it was like,” said Green, whose wife and family are all for the move. “We feel we’re up for an adventure. At this stage in my career, it’s a perfect fit.”

This series between the NL’s East and Central division leaders got off to a dramatic start Tuesday. Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit a grand slam and a three-run homer for a career-high seven RBIs as St. Louis jumped out to a 7-1 lead. The Mets rallied, though, as Carlos Delgado hit two homers of his own— including a fifth-inning grand slam for the 400th of his career.

Center fielder Carlos Beltran capped New York’s comeback with a two-run homer in the ninth off Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, lifting the Mets to an 8-7 victory—their fifth straight overall and ninth in a row at home.

“This is a potential playoff atmosphere,” Beltran said. “Whoever wins this series is going to make a statement.”

Beltran has three home runs in his last five games, bringing his total to 36 on the season. However, he is just 6-for-37 (.162) in his career against Mulder.

Mulder defeated Steve Trachsel (12-5, 4.79), who starts for the Mets Wednesday, on May 17, but Trachsel has gone 10-1 in 16 starts since. His 10 wins since June 9 are the most in the NL over that span, and tie him with John Garland of the Chicago White Sox for the major league lead.

Trachsel won his third consecutive decision on Friday, allowing three runs over seven innings of a 6-3 victory over Colorado.

The right-hander is 9-9 with a 4.36 ERA in 27 career starts against the Cardinals, but has not defeated them since Sept. 22, 1999.

Tuesday’s defeat, the 11th in the last 15 road games for the Cardinals, trimmed St. Louis’ NL Central lead to one game over Cincinnati, which defeated Houston 14-0. This is the smallest division lead for the Cardinals since they had a one-game advantage over the Reds on July 3.

The Mets are looking for their third winning streak of at least six games this season, and their first since a season-high eight-game run from June 7-15.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Mulder LAA vs. S. Trachsel Bal
6-7 Record 15-8
7.14 ERA 4.97
50 K 79
35 BB 78
1.70 WHIP 1.60

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Aug 23