Mets 12, Cardinals 5

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Carlos Beltran sent the ball soaring over the wall.

So did David Wright. And Carlos Delgado. And then Beltran did it a second time.

With four home runs, the Mets tied the NL championship series, making sure it will end back home in New York.

“It’s all even now. It’s, ‘Who wants it more?”’ Wright said after the Mets battered the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen in a 12-5 victory Sunday night that knotted up the series at two games apiece.

Now that Delgado’s in the postseason, he’s starting to own it. He put New York ahead for good at 5-2 with a three-run homer in the fifth, then busted open the game with a two-run double in a six-run sixth.

Beltran boosted his NLCS home-run total to seven in 11 games, Wright broke an 0-for-13 slump with his homer and Jose Valentin added a three-run double in the sixth as New York went ahead 11-3.

“You create you own momentum,” Delgado said. “You just have to approach every game like it’s the last game you’re going to play.”

After being held scoreless for 14 innings, the Mets came to life in the third and set a team record for runs and homers in a postseason game. It was more than enough offense to back Oliver Perez, who was forced into the rotation because of injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez.

New York had 14 hits, one night after getting just three.

“When you have good hitters like we do, you’re not going to hold us down too often,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said.

But before the series returns to Shea Stadium, Tom Glavine (15-7) is to start for the Mets on Monday night, with Jeff Weaver (5-4) pitching for the Cardinals in a matchup of Game 1 starters. Both would be pitching on three days’ rest, though rain is possible.

Glavine has pitched 13 scoreless innings in the postseason.

“He knows what it takes, and we’re just going to come out tomorrow and play good ball again,” Delgado said confidently.

Beltran went 3-for-3 with two walks and is hitting .333 in the NLCS. Delgado is hitting .414 (12-for-29) with four homers and 11 RBIs in the postseason, batting .400 against the Cardinals with three homers and nine RBIs.

“I played 12-and-a-half years and never sniffed the playoffs,” he said. “I’m enjoying these playoffs. It’s a blast. But I guess it’s going to be that much sweeter when you win it.”

Perez, acquired July 31 from Pittsburgh along with Roberto Hernandez in the Xavier Nady deal, gave up solo homers to David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds and Yadier Molina. He never retired the side in order but lasted 5 2-3 innings.

“I did my job, kept us in the game, and that’s what’s most important,” Perez said.

Only the second pitcher to start a postseason game in a year he finished the regular season 10 games under .500 (3-13), Perez had been 0-7 on the road this year.

“We really needed that,” Delgado said. “I think he did a fantastic job.”

Cardinals rookie Anthony Reyes, who like Perez was pitching for the first time since Oct. 1, allowed runners in all four of his innings, walked four and threw 86 pitches. But he gave up his only runs on the third-inning homers by Beltran and Wright, which put the Mets ahead 2-1.

“I kept the team in the game and tried to do the best I could with every pitch, but I threw too many pitches and I got forced out of there early,” Reyes said.

Relievers Brad Thompson and Josh Hancock were lit up for eight runs, with the pair combining to get just one out.

“They are kicking themselves and beating themselves up in the clubhouse,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Delgado tied the Mets record for RBIs in a postseason series, set by Gary Carter in the World Series, and set a team record with six extra-base hits. All of his postseason homers have to the opposite field.

“Very, very rare, very unique to see a hitter like him who can turn on you and pull the ball, and then can just stay out there and just serve the ball the other way,” Randolph said.

Beltran kept up his role as a Cardinal-killer: He batted .417 against St. Louis with four homers in the 2004 NLCS as a member of the Houston Astros. During the regular season, the Mets were 9-1 when Delgado and Beltran homered in the same game.

Thousands of red-clad Cardinals fans waving white towels filled Busch Stadium on a cool night, hoping their team would move within one win of a World Series date with the Tigers. Detroit beat the Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1968 Series.

Molina put St. Louis on top in the second with an RBI single and, after the homers by Beltran and Wright, Juan Encarnacion hit a tying triple in the bottom half.

La Russa sent in a pinch hitter for Reyes in the fourth, and Thompson entered in the fifth. Paul Lo Duca reached when second baseman Ronnie Belliard misplayed his leadoff grounder for an error, Beltran singled and Delgado sent an outside 2-0 pitch a few rows into the left-field seats.

“Hopefully this is a one-day thing for us,” Thompson said.

Eckstein, who homered just twice in the regular season, connected leading off the bottom half to pull the Cardinals to 5-3. But the Mets loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth against Hancock, and La Russa left him in to face Delgado.

Delgado lofted a fly ball to deep left-center that Scott Spiezio took a bad angle on, and the ball bounced over the fence on a hop for a double. A walk to Wright reloaded the bases, Tyler Johnson relieved, and Shawn Green singled to make it 8-3. Valentin then cleared the bases with a double down the left-field line, sending many fans streaming up the aisles.

“It happened quick,” Hancock said. “I just didn’t do my job. We make mistakes, they hit them.”

Perez left after allowing homers to Edmonds and Molina in the bottom half, and Beltran connected for his second solo homer in the seventh, a drive off former-Met Braden Looper.

“One swing of the bat,” Wright said, “can get us going.”

Notes

New York beat Atlanta 11-6 in Game 2 of the 1969 NLCS. … Delgado tied the Mets’ record for home runs in an NLCS, set by Rusty Staub in 1973, and his five RBIs tied the team postseason record for a game, set by Staub in Game 4 of the 1973 World Series and matched by Edgardo Alfonzo in the 1999 division series opener. … The seven combined homers set an LCS record.

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