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Redding earns first win as short-handed Mets hold off Pujols, Cardinals

NEW YORK -- No matter how many All-Stars get injured, the New York Mets plan to stick around in the pennant race.

Tim Redding pitched into the eighth inning for his first win with the Mets and substitute setup man Brian Stokes got Albert Pujols to ground into a crucial double play, leading New York past the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 on Monday night.

Daniel Murphy homered and Omir Santos went 4 for 4 in an uplifting victory for the Mets, hours after they received another dose of disheartening news. Star center fielder Carlos Beltran went on the 15-day disabled list with a bone bruise on his right knee, a huge blow to a team already decimated by key injuries.

"It's got to be huge to know we can compete after losing a huge player like Carlos," Stokes said.

Before the game, New York manager Jerry Manuel said he would keep a close eye on the spirit of his squad, also missing shortstop Jose Reyes, first baseman Carlos Delgado and three important pitchers.

But the Mets' makeshift lineup responded with 14 hits and the pitching staff held a streaking Pujols in check. Alex Cora had a pair of RBI singles and Luis Castillo went 3 for 3 with an RBI double and a walk. Santos set a career high for hits, including a run-scoring single.

"It takes more than five superstars to win," Cora said.

A difficult day almost got even worse for the Mets. Reyes and trainer Ray Ramirez were rear-ended by a fire truck on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge en route to the hospital for a checkup. Nobody was hurt, team spokesman Jay Horwitz said.

"It was a whirlwind day," Redding said. "I told myself we had to get off to a good start, show we're not just going to lay down."

Making his seventh start for New York, Redding (1-2) was pulled after allowing a leadoff homer to No. 9 batter Brendan Ryan in the eighth, his first since Aug. 18, 2007.

Stokes came on to protect a 5-4 lead with one out and a runner on first. He threw a 2-2 slider to Pujols, who hit a comebacker that Stokes turned into an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play.

"He made a good pitch. I swung. That's all," Pujols said. "I'm human. What, am I supposed to hit everything out of the park?"

Cora added an RBI single in the bottom half and Francisco Rodriguez worked a perfect ninth for his 19th save in 21 chances. The Mets won for the fourth time in 12 games.

"We're not as bad as people think we are," Cora said. "As long as your mind and your effort is consistent, we're going to be fine."

Ryan Ludwick hit a two-run homer for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, who had won five of six. They were coming off a three-game sweep at Kansas City, where Pujols had three homers and 10 RBIs.

Leading the majors with 26 homers, including eight in the previous 10 games, Pujols went 1 for 4 with a double that preceded Ludwick's home run.

Murphy connected leading off the fifth against Todd Wellemeyer (6-7), who lasted 5 2/3 innings. He gave up five runs and 10 hits.

"The way I see it, it's a cross between bad pitching and bad luck. That's not a good combination," Wellemeyer said.

With John Maine and Oliver Perez close to coming off the disabled list, Redding could be bumped from the rotation soon. But he delivered a solid outing, throwing his first 15 pitches for strikes and allowing five hits.

The right-hander gave a tired Mets bullpen a much-needed rest. Stokes served as the eighth-inning setup man because Manuel was eager to give overworked relievers Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano and Sean Green a night off. Regular setup man J.J. Putz has been on the DL since June 5.

"That was huge for us," Manuel said. "Now we begin to have length again in our bullpen."

Game notes
The Mets are a major league-best 17-7 in the first game of a series. ... The Mets were swept in a three-game series at St. Louis in April. ... The nine batters in New York's starting lineup had a combined 16 homers coming into the game.