ST. LOUIS -- Mets left-hander José Quintana picked up right where he left off last fall.
Quintana, pitching at Busch Stadium for the first time since starting Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series as a member of the Cardinals, led New York to a 4-2 win over St. Louis in the first game of a four-game series on Thursday night.
“I needed this ‘W’ you know,” Quintana said. “All my teammates, they gave me really good support in the game, a couple good plays behind me, and [Francisco] Alvarez called a really good game, and I felt really good out there.”
Quintana (1-4) allowed two runs on three hits and four walks in six-plus innings. He struck out five, and 57 of his 97 pitches were strikes.
“That’s a tough lineup,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “They've been swinging the bats well, and very apropos that he got his first win for us. He’s solid. He had all [four] pitches and made them defend all of them. He's a guy that chases command instead of velocity, and in a lot of ways, kind of a throwback.”
It was Quintana's fifth straight quality start and his first win since signing a two-year, $26 million contract with New York in the offseason.
“I can breathe now,” Quintana said.
He retired the first 10 batters he faced, while getting some help from his defense.
Francisco Lindor made a slick barehand play to throw out Tommy Edman to lead off the first inning, and Brandon Nimmo made a diving catch to rob José Fermín of a potential extra-base hit to end the third. Nimmo covered 25.3 feet per second to make the grab, per Statcast.
For the first six innings, the performance mirrored his postseason start for the Cardinals against the Phillies in which Quintana pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out three.
In his previous five regular-season starts at Busch Stadium, he went 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA. Quintana’s success in St. Louis was not lost on Showalter.
“It's something that makes a lot of people scratch their head,” Showalter said. “Every pitcher that's pitched a while will tell you where they pitch well and where they pitch poorly. Every hitter will tell you … It's a testament to the mental and emotional side of the game, and when I look at it, it's a tiebreaker for me when I'm doing lineups.”
Quintana ran into trouble in the seventh. Tyler O’Neill led off with a solo homer -- the first dinger given up by Quintana all season -- before Jordan Walker walked and Andrew Knizner singled, putting runners at first and third with no outs.
Drew Smith entered and wriggled out of the jam after a sacrifice fly by Alec Burleson cut the Mets' lead to 3-2.
Grant Hartwig pitched a scoreless eighth, and Trevor Gott earned his first save of the season, ending the game by striking out Paul Goldschmidt looking as the reigning NL MVP loomed as the potential game-winning run.
The Mets started making solid contact the second time through against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (3-8), who retired 10 straight after Nimmo led off the game with a single.
Walker robbed Jeff McNeil of a home run in the fourth, pulling back a drive that seemed destined for the Cardinals' bullpen over the right-field wall. But Walker couldn’t secure the catch, and McNeil came away with a double.
Pete Alonso followed with a 437-foot drive well over the center-field wall to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. The two-run shot gave Alonso 91 RBIs, surpassing Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies for second most in the NL.
“Waino had pretty good stuff today,” Alonso said. “He had his command, and I mean, he was picking corners pretty much the entire start. We just did enough to get ‘Big Q’ the win.”
Lindor added an RBI double in the fifth to make it 3-0.
Tim Locastro took the first delivery by Cardinals reliever John King over the center-field wall leading off the ninth to give the Mets an insurance run. It was Locastro’s third career pinch-hit homer.
Nimmo had a pair of hits to extend his hitting streak to nine games.
“It was a pitcher’s game tonight,” Showalter said. “We played really well defensively with one exception. Lindor made some really tough plays tonight look easy, [McNeil] made a good play, Nimmo made a great play, and I feel like that was what I really enjoyed and how well we played defensively tonight.”