NEW YORK (AP)—Sharp and deceptive as ever, Tom Glavine took charge again, putting the pitching-depleted Mets on his 40-year-old back to give New York the lead in the NL championship series.
“Tommy was the key,” New York manager Willie Randolph said. “He’s quiet, goes about his business and is one of the leaders on our staff.”
Making his 34th postseason start, Glavine shut down Albert Pujols and extended 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 two-run shot off an otherwise impressive Jeff Weaver in the sixth. That was all the offense New York needed to win its eighth 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. I mean, it’s tough to win when you do that.”
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 will be 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 six scoreless innings in Game 2 of the first round, helping the Mets to a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who waited four 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 on myself.”
Helped by two inning-ending double plays and a sprawling catch by super sub Endy Chavez, Glavine yielded only four hits and two walks. He struck out Pujols in the first, walked him in the fourth and retired him on a liner to shortstop in the sixth.
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 eighth to avoid facing Pujols himself, instead passing the reigning NL MVP along to Billy Wagner. But the Mets’ closer got Pujols to line out to first, and Juan Encarnacion followed with a hard groundout.
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 second-most wins behind former Braves teammate John Smoltz (15).
“He made a lot of hitters tonight look foolish, kept them off balance,” Mets star David Wright said.
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 one harmless single.
But Paul Lo Duca bounced a hit through the left side in the sixth, 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 No. 18 in New York’s lineup.
“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 curiously 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 one hit through five 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 sixth after 98 pitches, is scheduled to come back on only three days’ rest in Game 5—as is Glavine, who threw 89 pitches.
“There’s no question I feel better about coming back on a small pitch count like I had tonight as opposed to getting over 100,” Glavine said.
The Cardinals have seen all too much of Beltran in October. He batted .417 with four homers and five RBIs for the Astros in the 2004 NLCS, a series St. Louis won in seven games.
Beltran also hit a game-ending homer against the Cardinals in August.
“He’s a big-game guy. He’s shown what he can do in the postseason,” Randolph said. “He has a beautiful swing. He’s a very special individual. You don’t see the ball jump off the bat like that with many hitters.”
La Russa has his team in the NLCS for the third straight season and fifth time in seven years overall—a run that began with a loss to the wild-card Mets in 2000. But St. Louis is 1-3 in its last four NLCS appearances and is still looking for its first World Series championship since 1982.
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 early when he aggravated his injured Achilles’ tendon while running out a foul fly in the second. After feeling two pops in his foot, he will have an MRI on Friday. He is day-to-day.
Floyd was replaced by Chavez, a defensive whiz, in the top of the third. Chavez got a late break on Ronnie Belliard’s fifth-inning looper, but recovered in time to make a diving, snow-cone grab.
Poor baserunning by Pujols cost the Cardinals in the fourth, when he was doubled off first base by Beltran on Encarnacion’s soft fly to a center.
“Albert is an outstanding baserunner and I’m not exaggerating,” La Russa said. “That was the exception.”
It was Glavine’s 16th LCS start, the most in major league history. He lowered his career postseason ERA to 3.27. … Ex-Mets slugger Darryl Strawberry threw out the first pitch.