By Jenifer Langosch and Anthony DiComo
ST. LOUIS -- A stay in St. Louis did the Mets well, as they left town following Thursday night's 10-6 victory in better National League Wild Card position than when they arrived. Capping an evening in which Seth Lugo secured his first Major League win and the offense piled on by taking advantage of a shoddy Cardinals defense, the Mets won the series and moved to within 3 1/2 games of St. Louis in the Wild Card standings.
"This was a tough series," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "They've got a good team. We came into the series knowing we had to pick up some ground, and we picked up a game. That means a lot."
Lugo outpitched Adam Wainwright, whose start was compounded by plays not made behind him. A pair of errors led to five of the seven runs Wainwright surrendered being unearned. Alejandro De Aza helped the Mets capitalize after both of those miscues, driving in two with a fourth-inning single and then blowing the game open with a three-run blast in the fifth.
The support was sufficient for Lugo, who was hardly impeded until a right calf cramp forced him out of the game as he warmed up for the sixth. Leading up to that, Lugo had worked around two singles and three walks to cover five scoreless innings in his second start.
"I've been needing one of those," said Lugo, who had not won even a Minor League game since May 10.
It was not nearly so smooth for Wainwright, who couldn't pitch past the fifth for the third time in five starts. Though the results could have been much different without the defensive issues behind him, Wainwright was hardly sharp. He surrendered nine hits and has given up 23 runs (18 earned) over his last four starts.
"It's been a tough year for me," Wainwright said. "It's another game we lose that I start and the offense scored some runs. It's frustrating. I don't know what else to say. I just have to keep going, and I'll come out of this."
The Cardinals' offense came much too late and almost entirely via home runs. Brandon Moss drove in three runs with his second multi-homer game this season. Jedd Gyorko and Stephen Piscotty added solo homers in the ninth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED You go, Lugo: With their rotation depleted by injuries and their bullpen overworked, the Mets desperately needed a strong start from Lugo. The rookie delivered, for a time. Staked to an early lead, Lugo struck out five, yielding just two hits. But he departed prior to the sixth inning with a right calf cramp, prematurely ending the best outing of his career. More >
Upon further review: In what proved to be a pivotal moment of Wainwright's start, the Cardinals were unsuccessful in their challenge of a play in which Wainwright lost his glove. It happened in the fifth, as Yoenis Cespedes raced from first to third on James Loney's single to left. Wainwright backed up third, took the throw, and lodged his glove between Cespedes' foot and the base. Wainwright lost his glove as Cespedes stepped on it, and Cespedes was ruled safe. The call was confirmed after determining that Wainwright did not hold his glove with the ball in his possession. The Mets went on to score four unearned runs with two outs in the inning. More >
"It looked better on slow motion, obviously, but if Adam doesn't lose his balance right there, he probably keeps hold of the glove and he's called out," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We let them discuss it as a group, let them talk to [replay officials in] New York, and it went as they thought it would."
Super sub: Filling in for the injured Jay Bruce, De Aza put the game all but out of reach with his three-run homer in the fifth inning, making Greg Garcia pay for the fielding error that immediately preceded it. De Aza finished with a career-high five RBIs. To put that in perspective, he had five RBIs in April, May and June combined. More >
"I was looking for that pitch, and I got it," De Aza said of his homer on a 91-mph Wainwright sinker. "But I didn't think I hit it out. Once I got it, I got a little bit excited."
Fielding foibles: The Cardinals' defense, which has been porous all season, complicated several innings for Wainwright and left him to shoulder five unearned runs. Third baseman Jhonny Peralta opened the fourth with a fielding error, and the Mets took advantage by turning the extra out into a run. The Mets then scored the rest of their unearned runs in the fifth, an inning that was extended by shortstop Garcia's fielding error. It was the team's 18th multi-error game of the season.
"Obviously after we made an error, they scored that one run, but then they did a good job of really making us pay for it," Moss said. "We gave them an extra out and they put up four runs with it."
"I've been frustrated for a while and try not to show too much emotion. It's not healthy to leave it all in there either. I had a good little snap session in here, hopefully when nobody was watching. I'll be ready for the next start." -- Wainwright, on letting his emotion show in the fifth inning
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his two home runs, Moss lowered his season home-run rate to one every 12.08 at-bats. It's the best mark in the Majors by any player with at least 300 plate appearances.
WHAT'S NEXT Mets: Things grow easier on paper at least for the Mets, who open a 10-game homestand with three against the Phillies. Right-hander Bartolo Colon, at age 43 one of the Mets' few remaining healthy starters, will start on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET in the opener at Citi Field.
Cardinals: Facing their final Interleague opponent of the season, the Cardinals will give the ball to right-hander Luke Weaver on Friday at 7:15 p.m. CT for the opener of a three-game series with the A's at Busch Stadium. Weaver (0-1, 5.00 ERA) is still seeking his first Major League win.