ST. LOUIS - Carlos Beltran provided the biggest assist of the day for the Cardinals on Monday while taking practice swings in the batting cage behind the team's dugout.
It was Beltran, watching on television, who saw the Mets' Angel Torres miss first base after hitting an apparent double to lead off the ninth inning with the Cardinals clinging to a 5-4 lead.
"When he hit the ball he was watching the ball," Beltran said. "He never looked at the bag. I saw sand coming off around the bag and I just went and told Mike (Matheny) 'Let's try to throw to first. It looked like he didn't touch the base.' We had nothing to lose. The umpire was looking down so he got a good look at what he did and he called him out."
The call by umpire Dave Rackley, a vacation relief umpire, took the potential tying run off second base with nobody out. Jason Motte, who had come in to get the final two outs in the eighth with two runners on base, allowed a two-out walk to Ruben Tejada before closing out his 33rd save, his first five-out save in exactly one year.
"When he (Torres) got to second I was just like, 'OK, let's go and get out there and battle,'" Motte said. "When I got back on the mound, Yadi (Molina) told me to come set and step off and throw to first. I thought it probably was not going to work. I did it and the umpire called him out and I thought, 'Hmm, that's a sweet way to get an out.'"
After watching the replay after the game, Rackley was convinced he got the call right.
"It looked exactly like what I saw on the field," Rackley said, "which was his foot went over the base. His toe hit the dirt and his heel never came down and it just kicked dirt up and he never touched the corner."
Torres, after watching the same replay, was adamant that he had in fact touched the base - even though he did not put up much of an argument when he was called out.
"I thought I had the base," Torres said. "I never thought they'd throw over to first base. I know I touched it. I just kept running."
Teammate Daniel Murphy, after watching the replay, thought Rackley got the call wrong - and knew it might have cost the Mets a chance to tie and perhaps win the game.
"It just changed the whole situation of the game and frustration boiled over there," Murphy said. "I think our frustration mounted because it feels like in that situation, you just can't be wrong. ... We felt that you can't make that call if you're wrong."
Matheny said Beltran became the MVP of the day for the Cardinals without ever taking the field.
"Carlos came up and said something didn't look right," Matheny said. "He noticed the umpire was standing right on top of the bag and at that point we had nothing to lose. It was absolutely a huge play and having the gall to come over and say, 'Let's check it out at least.' It was a great play by Carlos and he never saw the field today."
Beltran was out of the lineup because of a bruised knee he suffered on Sunday while trying to catch a foul fly ball during the Cardinals' game in Washington.
The win increased the Cardinals' lead over the Dodgers for the second wild card spot in the National League to one game, pending the result of LA's game Monday night. They increased their lead over the Pirates to 2 1/2 games.
Matt Carpenter drove in two runs and Joe Kelly threw 6 2/3 strong innings for the Cards.
Carpenter's RBI groundout followed a triple by Jon Jay leading off the first against Collin McHugh, making his second career start for the Mets. That allowed the Cardinals to score first in a game for the first time since last Sunday, eight games ago. Carpenter's sacrifice fly increased the lead to 2-0 in the third.
Consecutive singles by Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina produced another run in the third, and Skip Schumaker led off the fourth with his first home run since June 19, 2011 to build the lead to 4-0 en route to snapping the Mets' three-game winning streak. Craig drove in the final St. Louis run with an RBI single in the seventh.
Two-run homers by Kelly Shoppach and Murphy got the Mets back in the game, but Torres' missing the bad cost the Mets a chance to tie it in the ninth.
Beltran said Matheny looked at him as if were crazy when he told the manager what he saw on the television.
"I'm watching the game even though I am not playing," Beltran said. "I am paying attention to what's going on. Thank God I was able to see something that helped the team.
"I know myself if I had touched the base and got called out, I would have gotten thrown out of the game. He didn't really react to it, so I guess he didn't touch it. Mike high-fived me (after the call.) I think the guys who played are the MVPs. I was just watching the game."
NOTES: Top pitching prospect Shelby Miller will be one of three players promoted by the Cardinals from Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday. After a rough first half this season, the 21-year-old Miller was 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA in his last 10 starts ... Outfielder Adron Chambers and infielder Ryan Jackson also will join the Cardinals on Tuesday ... The Mets are promoting six players from their Triple-A team in Buffalo, all expected to join the team on Tuesday. The six are infielder Jordany Valdespin, outfielder Fred Lewis, right-handed pitchers Elvin Ramirez, Jeurys Familla and Jenry Mejia and left-handed pitcher Justin Hampson. ... Right-handed pitcher Victor Marte rejoined the Cardinals from Memphis in time for Monday's game ... Pitcher Chris Carpenter, recovering from surgery in July, will throw a second live batting practice session on Tuesday in an attempt to see if he can rejoin the team before the end of the year .... Mets manager Terry Collins said Matt Harvey, starting on Tuesday, will have one or two more starts before he will be shut down for the rest of the season in an attempt to control his innings total for the year. Jaime Garcia will start for the Cardinals in the second game of the three-game series.