Mets 4, Cardinals 1

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Orlando Hernandez followed Tom Glavine’s act. Another 41-year-old guy in the New York Mets’ supposedly shaky rotation shut down the team that broke their hearts in the NL championship series.

Hernandez, who missed the 2006 postseason with a calf injury, threw seven innings of five-hit ball and hit a two-run double that matched his career RBI output in a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night. He also picked off a runner.

“We saw him twice in spring training and we had an idea of how he pitches,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “He just executes. You have to give him credit.”

The Mets have been impressive in taking the first two games of a season-opening three-game series against the team that eliminated them in a seven-game NLCS last year. And they’ve done it with starting pitching, which was supposed to be their weakness.

“Last year that’s all they talked about and we were third in all of baseball, and that’s all they can talk about now,” catcher Paul Lo Duca said. “I’ve told everybody our pitching is going to be a lot better than everybody thinks.”

The Cardinals have as many outfield errors (two) as runs thus far, looking more like the 83-win team that limped to the postseason than the one that got rolling en route to the franchise’s first World Series title in 24 years.

New York prevailed Tuesday after the Cardinals received their World Series rings. On Sunday night, the Mets won 6-1 behind Tom Glavine following a flag-raising ceremony along with the usual opening-day hoopla that included a convertible caravan around the warning track.

Hernandez (1-0) faced the Cardinals for the first time and tantalized them with an assortment of mostly off-speed pitches. He had no strikeouts but was hurt only by Scott Rolen’s leadoff homer in the seventh. El Duque was helped by three double plays, giving the Mets a two-game total of seven.

“I’ve seen him do this many times,” manager Willie Randolph said. “He’s just a Houdini sometimes.

“He knows how to add or subtract and play off the aggressiveness of players, especially young players.”

Kip Wells’ six-inning stint in his Cardinals debut was marred by shaky defense, including his own costly mistake. The Mets scored unearned runs in the first and fifth before Hernandez, a career .147 hitter with two RBIs in 68 at-bats entering the season, tacked on a two-run, bases-loaded double in the sixth.

“For the most part I liked the way I threw,” Wells said. “But there are always things I’m in control of and can do better, and that’s what I’ll work on.”

Hernandez’s hit down the third-base line put the Mets ahead 4-0 and nearly cleared the bases—the relay from shortstop David Eckstein was just in time to get Javier Valentin at the plate. Valentin had been intentionally walked.

“If I hit, it’s OK. I’m most happy that I threw seven innings and threw all of my pitches,” Hernandez said.

Aaron Heilman got Albert Pujols on a soft liner with two on for the final out in the eighth and Billy Wagner finished for the save.

The Cardinals’ ring ceremony was notable for the team’s generosity, with rings presented to Hall of Famers such as Bob Gibson and Lou Brock in addition to a pair of retired players, Larry Walker and Cal Eldred, who called it quits after the 2005 season and served as spring training instructors.

The rings feature the championship trophy on one side, the players’ name accompanied by a scene of Busch Stadium during a fireworks celebration on the opposite side, with the intertwined letters STL in rubies on top along with diamonds studding four bases.

“Gorgeous,” La Russa said. “Ownership deserves a ton of credit.”

Wells (0-1) made a wild pickoff throw after walking Jose Reyes to start the game. Reyes advanced on the error, went to third on a sacrifice and scored on Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly.

Reyes singled with two outs in the fifth, stole second and scored when right fielder Skip Schumaker misjudged Lo Duca’s soft liner for a two-base error. The ball glanced off his cap.

“I was positioned right and I came charging in to dive for it, and lost it in the lights,” Schumaker said. “I didn’t know what to do, and it hit me right in the head.”

Notes

The Mets are 6-2 against the Cardinals the last two seasons. … Hernandez had success against the Cardinals in his last spring training start, allowing one unearned run and three hits on March 23 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He threw a six-inning simulated game on March 28 in his final regular-season tuneup. … LF Chris Duncan got a big ovation when he caught Moises Alou’s liner with runners on first and second for the first out in the sixth, a reference to the muffed fly balls by Schumaker on Tuesday and So Taguchi in the opener, perhaps along with Duncan’s own adventures in the outfield in his rookie season.

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