NEW YORK -- As he waited for Trevor Rosenthal to toe the pitching rubber in the ninth inning Thursday at Citi Field, Jose Reyes darted his eyes toward the right side of the infield. He noticed first baseman Matt Carpenter, on Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's orders, backing toward the lip of the right-field grass. Reyes told himself if he hit a ball there, he was going to duck his head and sprint.
When he did, Reyes saw out of the corner of his eye that Rosenthal was hesitating atop the mound, slow to cover first. Reyes ran even faster -- "There's still something there for 34 years old," he grinned afterward -- to beat Rosenthal to the bag, earning a walk-off single in the Mets' 3-2 win over the Cardinals.
"He knows he has to get over there," Carpenter said of Rosenthal. "I'm almost in the outfield, and I turn to look and throw, and he's nowhere close."
With that, the Cards' inability to find ninth-inning consistency continued to haunt them, dropping them to their third walk-off loss in seven games since the All-Star break.
"Any time you get into the last third of a game, let alone the eighth and ninth, and you have any kind of lead, those are ones we just count that we're going to finish," Matheny said. "If you carry a lead into those last two, it's one you feel like you should put away."
Facing Rosenthal, one of the Cardinals' multiple closer options, the Mets put runners on the corners with two outs in the ninth, bringing Reyes to the plate. As Carpenter gloved his bouncer down the line, Reyes reached a top speed of 29.3 feet per second, according to Statcast™, his fastest sprint speed of the year.
"I'm going to hustle all the time," Reyes said. "My body feels so good."
Initially when Reyes hit his single, it looked as if the Mets and Cardinals would be heading to extra innings. Starting pitchers Seth Lugo and Lance Lynn kept their respective teams close all afternoon; Lugo did not allow a hit until Greg Garcia doubled down the right-field line with two outs in the fifth, while Lynn's only damaging mistake came on a Lucas Duda solo homer.
With Yadier Molina, Kolten Wong and Jedd Gyorko all resting in the midst of St. Louis' 10-game road trip, Tommy Pham keyed the Cardinals' offense with his 14th multi-RBI game, including a game-tying double in the sixth and a go-ahead homer in the eighth. He improved to 11-for-29 on the Cardinals' 10-game road trip.
But it was not enough for the Cards, who settled for a series split with the third-place Mets.
"There's no doubt we still believe in our ballclub and everybody here," Reyes said. "We know it's not going to be easy. But we still believe."
"I felt really good with the pitch before and just made a mistake trying to make it better," said Cecil, who blew his sixth save of the season.
The blast was Flores' third pinch-hit homer and second this year.
"It's not easy to pinch-hit," he said. "But you do your best to get ready and to hit the ball hard. It's huge for us. I think every game for us right now is must-win."
Climbing up the leaderboard: Duda fouled off a pair of Lynn fastballs before squaring up the right-hander's seventh pitch of the second inning, hitting it over the fence for a home run. It was the 17th homer of Duda's season -- 14 of them have been solo shots -- and 125th of his career. That moved Duda into sole possession of seventh place on the Mets' all-time list, though he's not even halfway to Darryl Strawberry's record total of 252. More >
"I'm out of the media stuff." -- Flores, who famously cried on the field when he believed the Mets had traded him in 2015, on new rumors surfacing this month
"I don't worry about what other people say. I just worry about competing." -- Lynn, on pitching amid speculation that he may be traded before the non-waiver Trade Deadline
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
A replay review helped Cecil avoid additional trouble in the eighth. Curtis Granderson, initially ruled safe on an infield single to short, became the second out of the inning after the call was overturned following a 62-second review.
Cardinals: The Cards will open a key three-game series against the Cubs with a 1:20 p.m. CT game at Wrigley Field on Friday. Carlos Martinez, who is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts against Chicago this year, will oppose Jacob Arrieta in the series opener.
Mets: With the Trade Deadline looming, the Mets will welcome the A's to Citi Field for the first of three games Friday. Lefty Steven Matz, who is 0-2 with a 20.25 ERA in his last two starts, will face off against Oakland right-hander Paul Blackburn in the 7:10 p.m. ET opener.
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