NEW YORK -- Still trailing multiple teams in both the National League Central and NL Wild Card races, the Cardinals must play exemplary baseball throughout the season's second half to claw back into the postseason picture. Michael Wacha did more than his share Tuesday night, and the Mets gave him plenty of help, committing three errors in a 5-0 St. Louis win at Citi Field.
A half-dozen defensive misplays, including both of T.J. Rivera's errors, allowed the Cardinals to storm out to a four-run lead in the game's first two innings. Behind Wacha's first career complete game, St. Louis never looked back, cruising to its fourth straight win over New York. In total, the Mets finished with as many errors -- three -- as they had hits against Wacha.
• Shutout another reminder of Wacha's potential
"It started with Michael giving us a good quality start," said Matt Carpenter, who extended his on-base streak to 21 games with a four-hit night. "Guys swung the bats well, and we played good defense. Just a complete game."
Returning from an 11-day layoff, Wacha pitched into the eighth for the first time since June 2016, holding the Mets to three hits and a walk. He threw a career-high 119 pitches.
"We gave him a great deal of rest on purpose," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I don't want to take away a special opportunity like that. When you pitch that well, you should get a chance to finish what you started."
His effort dropped the Mets to their third consecutive loss, following a pair of wins to open the second half. The skid all but ensures New York will continue looking to sell off veteran assets -- including Duda, Jay Bruce and Addison Reed -- prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"In this league, when you play good teams, you can't give them extra outs," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "And when you've got Wacha pitching like he did tonight -- a pretty dominant performance -- and you let him have some extra runs, they're going to beat you."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Taking advantage: Just as the Cardinals gave the Mets some defensive gifts in Monday's opener, the hosts allowed St. Louis to jump out to an early lead Tuesday. Rivera committed fielding errors in the first and second innings, each of them leading to runs. In the second, Jose Reyes was unable to field a Kolten Wong infield single cleanly, also making a slow double-play turn that allowed Wacha to beat out his relay throw. Another Mets culprit was Yoenis Cespedes, who allowed Carpenter's one-out double to carry over his head. According to Statcast™, Cespedes had an 89 percent catch probability on the play. All told, the Cardinals scored three runs in the second and one in the first.
"It was kind of a hard game for us defensively right out of the gate," Reyes said. "You don't want to give extra outs to the other team. The Cardinals, they have a very good team over there. It was kind of ugly for us in the beginning." More >
Finishing it off: Before Tuesday, Wacha had not completed a nine-inning game since his junior season at Texas A&M in 2012. Considering his 11-day layoff and prior health issues, Wacha did not appear primed for one against the Mets. But following a dugout conversation with Matheny, the Cardinals allowed him to start the ninth at 97 pitches. Wacha promptly allowed a leadoff hit, but struck out two of the next three batters to secure his first shutout.
"Mike asked me if I was good, and I told him I was good and ready to go," Wacha said. "I definitely still felt good enough to go out there and finish the game."
"Look, you're a New York Met until you're not. And you can't go home every night thinking, 'Jeez, where am I going to be tomorrow?' You've got to say to yourself, 'I'm going to be out there tomorrow, I'm going to play tomorrow at Citi Field, I've got to get ready.' ... The rest of that stuff's out of your control." -- Collins, on the trade rumors surrounding his team
"That was a good win, all the way around. Good offense. Carp had a big day, but besides that, it was guys kind of grinding through at-bats and then timely hits and good defense. And we saw exactly what we needed to see out of our starter." -- Matheny
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Carpenter, who has one of the lowest first-pitch swing rates (15 percent) in baseball, tallied three first-pitch hits in a game for the first time in his career. He entered the night having seen 1,095 pitches this season, second-most in Major League Baseball.
"I didn't even realize until afterwards that I had swung at the first two pitches," Carpenter said. "The third at-bat, it was mainly the guys in the dugout said, 'You won't do it again.' So I did it. And then I had to go back to being myself after that."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Cardinals extended the third inning with a successful challenge that also rewarded Gyorko with his sixth stolen base of the season. Initially called out by second-base umpire Joe West, Gyorko was credited with a steal following a two-minute, 31-second review.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will have a chance to climb back to .500 on Wednesday when they face the Mets in a 6:10 p.m. CT game at Citi Field. Mike Leake, who has won just one of his last nine starts, will take the mound for the second time since returning from the All-Star break.
Mets:Jacob deGrom, who is 6-0 with a 1.53 ERA over his last six outings, will put that bit of perfection on the line when the Mets return to Citi Field on Wednesday for a 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Cardinals. Over those six starts -- a span of 47 innings -- deGrom has struck out 47 batters against nine walks.
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