ST. LOUIS - The Cardinals began play on Monday hanging onto a wild-card spot in the NL playoffs - which manager Mike Matheny says might come as a surprise to some people. They ended the day hanging on for a victory.
"If you were to just read or listen to what's being said and asked about this team, you'd have thought we were fighting to stay out of last place," Matheny said before the game against the Mets. "A lot has to do with the expectations .... But it really is kind of bizarre. If you were just an innocent bystander following this team and not really following the standings, the talk has certainly been in that direction as long as I can remember."
The Cardinals increased their lead for the second wild card spot in the National League as Matt Carpenter drove in two runs and Joe Kelly threw 6 2/3 strong innings in a 5-4 win over the Mets. They lead the Dodgers by one game for that second spot, pending the result of Los Angeles' game on Monday night, and have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Pirates.
Jason Motte had to record the final five outs to complete the win, his first five-out save in exactly one year. He came into the game in the eighth with runners on first and second and retired Scott Hairston Jr. on a line drive to short and struck out Kelly Shoppach.
Andres Torres appeared to lead off the ninth with a double for the Mets, but the Cardinals appealed that he missed first base and got the call. Motte then struck out Ronny Cedeno before walking Ruben Tejada and retiring Daniel Murphy on a fly ball to end the game and finish off his 33rd save.
Carpenter's RBI groundout followed a triple by Jon Jay leading off the first against Collin McHugh, who was making his second career start for the Mets. It was the first time the Cardinals scored first since last Sunday, eight games ago. Carpenter's sacrifice fly scored Kelly, who had doubled, to increase 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.
Kelly allowed just five hits, walked two and struck out four in becoming the first Cardinal starter to pitch past the sixth inning since Aug. 22, a span of 12 consecutive games, in the longest outing in his 14 starts for the Cardinals.
The Mets closed the gap to 4-2 on a two-run homer by Shoppach with two outs in the seventh, and in the eighth Murphy made it a 5-4 game with another two-run homer, this one off reliever Mitchell Boggs.
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 ... Outfielder Carlos Beltran was not in the Cardinals' starting lineup after injuring his right leg attempting to make a sliding catch during Sunday's game in Washington. His status was said to be day-to-day. ... 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.