By Joshua Needelman and Anthony DiComo
NEW YORK -- Their star pitcher had been bested. All their momentum had vanished. To beat the Mets in spite of all that on Wednesday night, the Cardinals would need to topple All-Star closer Jeurys Familia, which no team had done in the regular season in nearly a year.
It happened quickly and decisively, reducing Familia's saves streak to rubble. With two runs in the ninth, the Cardinals stole a 5-4 game and a series victory from the Mets, winning two of three in a matchup of prime National League Wild Card contenders. The win vaulted the Cardinals past the Mets in the standings and within one game of the Marlins, who currently hold the league's second Wild Card spot.
Long a thorn in the Mets' side, catcher Yadier Molina erased a one-run lead in the ninth inning with a one-out RBI double off Familia, who had converted 52 consecutive regular-season save opportunities -- the third-longest streak in Major League history. Moments later, pinch-hitter Kolten Wong put the Cardinals ahead for good with a two-out double.
"We needed a happy flight. We needed a series win," Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright said. "It took me from one of my all-time most disappointing moments to 'A win's a win.'"
Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh had no issues of his own in the bottom of the ninth, locking down his sixth save.
The range of emotions in each dugout was stark. Two innings earlier, Yoenis Cespedes had thrown Citi Field into a frenzy with a two-out, two-run homer off the facing of the second deck in left-center field, chasing Wainwright from the game. That temporarily put Mets starter Logan Verrett in line for the win, after the right-hander had limited St. Louis to three runs -- a Matt Holliday two-run double and a Matt Adams RBI hit in the third -- in seven innings.
"No question about it, this is a tough one," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "This is a really tough one to take. When you come back on Adam Wainwright and have a chance to win the game, that's a pretty big night. And then to have your closer, who has been lights-out, give up two, yeah that's a little tougher to take."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
So long, saves streak:Jedd Gyorko began the Cardinals' ninth-inning uprising with a one-out walk, and Molina drove home pinch-runner Randal Grichuk with a gapper to left on the first pitch he saw. Two batters later, Wong drilled a 2-2 pitch to close the scoring.
"I was just trying to get a ground-ball double play," Familia said of his pitch to Molina. "I left it a little over the middle, and he put a good swing on it. That's it." More >
Wainwright's high-wire act: Wainwright, whose infamy in Queens has only grown since he ended the Mets' pennant hopes by closing out Game 7 of the 2006 NL Championship Series, played with the crowd's emotions for much of the night. St. Louis' ace allowed many baserunners but routinely halted rallies, Cespedes' homer aside. Wainwright allowed 11 hits and four runs over 6 2/3 innings.
"The Cespedes at-bat is one of the coolest showdowns of the year for me, for sure," Wainwright said. "He worked me, put some good swings on some very tough pitches. I threw some very good pitches to him and he kept fouling them off, fouling them off, fouling them off, fouling them off. And then got the one he wanted, and that's the one pitch I was trying to not throw in that situation." More >
La Potencia: A lull descended over Citi Field in the bottom of the seventh, while the Mets threatened to spoil yet another promising rally. But most of the stadium's 37,851 fans came to life when Travis d'Arnaud scored on Wainwright's wild pitch and continued to buzz as Cespedes fouled off three consecutive full-count pitches. When the outfielder crushed Wainwright's ninth pitch a projected 439 feet from the plate, according to Statcast™, turning a one-run deficit into a one-run lead, the crowd burst into a frenzy.
"In prior at-bats, he was throwing breaking balls, so I went into this at-bat looking for offspeed pitches," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "Once he made the mistake, I took advantage of it."
Right on the mark: Verrett kept the Cardinals in check through two innings but fell into trouble in the third, which started with a walk to Wainwright. Verrett allowed Aledmys Diaz to reach on a single but had recorded two outs by the time Holliday stepped into the batter's box. Holliday sent a two-run double into the right-field corner and came around to score one batter later, when Adams lifted another double to virtually the same spot, making it a 3-1 game.
"I was ready to bang my head into the wall here and crawl into a hole and die for a little bit there. I was pretty sad. But, you know what, baseball is funny. Right when you think it's your lowest moment of the year, all of a sudden the team wipes that away, and now I'm looking forward to my next start already. Instead of having a flight full of sorrow and pouty pants, now I'll have some good times with the boys." -- Wainwright, on his start
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
More than just Familia's consecutive-saves streak -- which dated back to last season -- ended on Wednesday. The Cardinals also snapped Familia's franchise-record run to start a season at 36 straight saves and halted a run of 14 converted save attempts in his last 14 appearances.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: Right-hander Michael Wacha leads the Cardinals into their series opener in Miami on Thursday at 6:10 p.m. CT. He'll look to improve from the last time he pitched against the Marlins, on July 17, when he lasted just four innings and allowed three runs in a 6-3 St. Louis loss.
Mets: A rare series-opening matinee awaits the Mets, who will return to Citi Field on Thursday for a 1:10 p.m. ET game against the Rockies. Jacob deGrom will start that contest opposite Tyler Anderson, one of two left-handers the Mets will see in the four-game series.