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  • Game info: 8:15 pm EDT Sun Oct 15, 2006
  • TV: FOX
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In danger of falling to the brink of elimination, the New York Mets will turn to a struggling pitcher they obtained just before the trade deadline.

Oliver Perez will make his first career postseason start for the Mets on Sunday night at Busch Stadium in Game 4 of the NLCS as New York tries to even the series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Perez was the opening day starter for Pittsburgh, but went 2-10 with a 6.63 ERA in 15 starts before he was demoted to the minor leagues. After joining the Mets, Perez went 1-3 with a 6.38 ERA in seven outings.

“With the Pirates, my velocity was down a little bit because I hurt my shoulder and my velocity was not consistent,” Perez said.

The left-hander has extensive experience against St. Louis from his days with the NL Central rival Pirates, going 2-5 with a 4.83 ERA in 11 career outings. He went 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals this season.

Perez is still trying to recapture his success of 2004, when he went 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA in 30 starts for Pittsburgh.

“He’s a very excitable kid and you can see that he’s kind of high strung, if you will. On the field, he’s very animated and enthusiastic. I don’t see any scared. He seems like when he competes, when he gets the ball, he goes after you,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “I think he understands where he is and wants the opportunity to show what he can do.”

Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is 9-for-24 with three homers and seven RBIs in his career against Perez. Third baseman Scott Rolen is even better at 9-for-20 with five doubles and five RBIs.

One day after rallying to even the series, St. Louis parlayed a fast start to a 5-0 victory in Game 3 on Saturday. Scott Spiezio had a two-run triple for the second straight game, while starter Jeff Suppan homered and gave up three hits over eight stellar innings.

Suppan shared the credit for his outing.

“I think offensively, we came out strong, and you know, defensively, we were outstanding,” he said.

The win for St. Louis represented a dramatic shift in a series that seemed to be going New York’s way just a day earlier. The Mets were poised to take a 2-0 advantage in the NLCS after taking a 6-4 lead into the seventh inning on Friday night at Shea Stadium.

Spiezio’s two-run triple tied the game and started a string of 10 unanswered runs for the Cardinals, who have held the Mets scoreless for 12 consecutive innings.

“I don’t think there’s any real correlation or carry-over from last night to tonight,” said Randolph after Saturday’s loss. “We’ll get some rest tonight and I guarantee you we’ll be ready to play tomorrow.”

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa moved Spiezio into the No. 5 spot in the order and started him in left field on Saturday. Spiezio, who replaced the ailing Rolen at third base Friday, has five RBIs over his last two games.

“Well, he’s just continuing what he did during the season,” La Russa said. “When Albert went out, he played first base and we had a winning record. When Scott was out, he played third. This guy has done a great job that way.”

La Russa moved Spiezio to the outfield with Rolen back in the lineup. The third baseman, who went 1-for-3 with a walk, had been 1-for-14 while dealing with a sore left shoulder through his first five postseason games.

New York left fielder Cliff Floyd did not start for the second straight game due to his injured left Achilles’ tendon, although Randolph indicated Floyd was available to pinch-hit.

St. Louis rookie starting pitcher Anthony Reyes will make his postseason debut one day shy of his 25th birthday. Reyes went 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA in 17 outings for the Cardinals this season—0-2 with an 8.79 ERA in his last four starts.

The right-hander hasn’t pitched since the Oct. 1 regular-season finale, when he allowed four runs and five hits while recording only two outs in a 5-3 loss to Milwaukee.

He’s hoping the layoff won’t work against him.

“I’d say maybe just location, that would probably be the biggest thing,” said Reyes about his biggest concern about Sunday’s outing. “You know, just want to get loose there in the first inning and make sure I come into the game loose and just make sure I get a feel before I go out there on the mound.”

Reyes, who has never faced the Mets, went 3-3 with a 4.78 ERA in eight home starts this year.

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Starting Pitchers

O. Pérez Ari vs. A. Reyes Cle
3-13 Record 5-8
6.55 ERA 5.06
102 K 72
68 BB 34
1.75 WHIP 1.38

Scoreboard

Sunday, Oct 15