NEW YORK -- The Cardinals may be struggling to claw their way back into the National League playoff picture, but it hasn't prevented them from keeping the Mets out of it. St. Louis broke out for six runs in the sixth inning Monday, scoring a 6-3 win at Citi Field to further dim New York's postseason hopes.
Tommy Pham broke the game open with a three-run homer off Hansel Robles, Paul DeJong homered for a franchise-record fourth consecutive game against the Mets, and starting pitcher Adam Wainwright added a run-scoring double to tally double-digit RBIs for the second straight year. He is the only active Major League pitcher with multiple 10-plus RBI seasons.
"That was big for us," Wainwright said. "The inning started there with Yadier [Molina] getting the infield hit, but then DeJong putting just a great swing [on a ball]. He continues to impress us. But any time a pitcher can do something offensively to help the team, the odds of you winning go statistically way, way up."
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Combined, it was enough to prevent the Mets' comeback attempt -- Michael Conforto and Lucas Duda homered -- from becoming anything more than an annoyance for the Cardinals en route to their third straight win against New York. Wainwright allowed three runs (two earned) to best Zack Wheeler, who was working on a shutout before allowing the first four of St. Louis' six runs in the sixth.
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"You certainly can't go on a run if you're not going to get consistent pitching," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "So we've got to get consistent pitching."
Entrusted with the ninth inning a day after blowing a save against the Pirates, Cardinals left-hander Brett Cecil worked around two baserunners to nail down his first save since June 19, 2015.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Met killer: If the Mets updated their scouting reports after DeJong went 9-for-12 with three homers against them in three games earlier this month, it didn't make much of a difference. DeJong's two-run shot in the sixth inning gave him a home run in four straight games against the Mets -- a Cardinals record. That pushed DeJong past Jose Pujols, who homered in three consecutive games against the Mets from 2001-02.
"I'd have to say it's chance, honestly," DeJong said of his recent success against the Mets. "[I'm] just getting good pitches to hit. I worked that 3-2 count off Wheeler tonight. Tonight I was a little aggressive at times, but the homer mattered, and we got the win." More >
Outfield chaos: Half an inning after taking the lead, the Cardinals breathed new life into the Mets with a brief defensive meltdown. After Duda homered to cut St. Louis' margin to 6-2, Jose Reyes raced around the bases on a double and a pair of Magneuris Sierra errors. The next batter, Travis d'Arnaud, reached safely when William Fowler dropped his routine fly ball to center. But Wainwright and reliever Tyler Lyons recorded the final two outs to prevent any more damage.
"You make a mistake and try to make up for it," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Sierra committing two errors on one play. "He's going to be an aggressive player, trying to make big things happen. He's going to more often than not."
Free swinging: Rallying against Cecil in the ninth, the Mets put two men on base with one out to bring the potential tying run to the plate in the form of Yoenis Cespedes. Mired in a 7-for-36 (.194) slump, Cespedes took three balls high and outside before hacking at a 92-mph fastball on the corner. He pulled it to the left side for a game-ending double play, allowing Cecil -- with Trevor Rosenthal, one of the Cardinals' top closer-by-committee options, unavailable -- to convert his first save of the year.
"With the tying run at the plate, I don't blame him," Matheny said of Cespedes offering at the 3-0 pitch. "That guy is dangerous. He's one swing away from tying the game."
Cespedes departed Citi Field before reporters were allowed to enter the clubhouse.
"It's got to be his pitch," Collins said of Cespedes' decision to swing 3-0. "He's the home run hitter. He's the guy on our team that you turn to, and you've got him in a great count that he's got to get something great to hit. He just didn't hit it."
"It was my fault. I should have made my pitches and gotten out of that. Our bullpen, I trust them in every situation. Today, we just couldn't get the job done when we needed to." -- Wheeler, on the sixth
"Those situations early in the game, that was probably the game. Wheeler was throwing a great game on the other side, and they got a couple ducks on the pond, first and third, there early on. I was just trying to get outs, and I got ahead in the count luckily and made some good pitches." -- Wainwright, on preventing the Mets from being successful in their four chances to push a runner home from third in the first two innings
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Reyes raced around the bases in 15.67 seconds on his sixth-inning scoring play, according to Statcast™, the seventh-fastest home-to-home time in the Majors this season. It was also the fastest 360-foot dash by any Mets player since Statcast™ began keeping track in 2015.
Cardinals:Michael Wacha will return from an 11-day hiatus to start for the Cardinals in Tuesday's 6:10 p.m. CT game against the Mets at Citi Field. In his three starts leading into the All-Star break, Wacha allowed three runs over 17 2/3 innings.
Mets: Still hanging on to a rotation spot, Rafael Montero will make his first second-half start in a 7:10 p.m. ET game Tuesday against the Cardinals. Montero found some success starting a pair of games just prior to the All-Star break, going 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in those outings.
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