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Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 6, Mets 2

Recap | Box score | Photos

WHAT IT MEANS: The Mets yet again fall back to .500 (49-49), and are now eight full games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League wild card, with three other teams ahead of them as well (including the Cardinals). They take two of three from St. Louis, but lose the series finale. Carlos Beltran goes 0-for-2 with a walk in what was almost certainly his final home game as a Met, since this was the team's last game at Citi Field before the July 31 trading deadline.

The Cardinals are now 51-47 -- in third place in the National League Central, 1½ games behind first-place Milwaukee, and one game behind second-place Pittsburgh.

ALBERT THE GREAT: Albert Pujols got the Cardinals on the board quickly, crushing an 88-mph cutter from Jonathon Niese off the facade of the second deck in left field for a two-run home run in the first inning. Pujols entered the game on an 0-for-10 streak. He finished 1-for-4 on the day.

COMEDY OF ERRORS: Trailing 2-1 heading into the fifth inning, Niese surrendered three more runs -- two of them unearned. With runners on first and second and one out, first baseman Lucas Duda fielded a ground ball and tried to go to second, but the throw hit the runner and the Mets failed to record an out on the play. Then, following a Jon Jay single, center fielder Angel Pagan inexplicably threw to first base with no Met covering the bag, allowing another run to score.

Niese, who is now 9-8 on the season, ended up throwing six innings, giving up five runs (three earned) on five hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts.

D.J. Carrasco pitched a spotless seventh and eighth, retiring all six batters he faced. Manny Acosta handled the ninth, giving up one run on two hits plus a walk.

BRIGHT SPOT: Jose Reyes, in his third game since returning from the disabled list, hit his major league-leading 16th triple in the fourth inning. He subsequently scored on an RBI groundout by Justin Turner. Reyes was 1-for-4 in the game.

The Mets had only five hits on the day. Duda had two of them -- a single in the fifth inning, and a double in the eighth. He came around to score in the eighth on a single by Jason Pridie. And Turner added a single in the ninth. St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook (8-4) was excellent, going eight innings, giving up just two runs on four hits. Mitchell Boggs polished off the win with a scoreless ninth.

OUT OF ACTION: Jason Bay was out of the lineup one a day after leaving the game early with a tight right hamstring. Mets manager Terry Collins said the afternoon start, plus the extreme heat (90 degrees at first pitch), contributed to his decision to give Bay the day off. Bay is mired in a 4-for-37 slump in his past 11 games, and is hitting just .232 on the season, with six homers and 29 RBIs.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Mets are flying to Florida following this afternoon's game to begin a 10-game road trip, facing the Marlins, Reds and Nationals. They start a three-game set with the Fish on Friday night. Mike Pelfrey (5-9, 4.67) will be on the mound for the Mets -- he will be opposed by Chris Volstad (5-8, 5.59). David Wright is expected to be in the Mets' lineup for the first time since May 15, having recovered from a stress fracture in his lower back.