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10.12.2006 

Mets 2, Redbirds 0

After the events of yesterday involving first a possible terrorist strike in NY, then a tragic accident, then a tragic accident killing a major league baseball player with a wife and son, the game at Shea tonight seemed nearly anticlimatic. Some would say "baseball doesn't matter at a time like this" or something like that. Of course, that's both true and untrue. No more people died yesterday than any normal day recent American history. Baseball always "matters" (whatever that's supposed to mean) as much as you allow it, regardless of what's going on in the world around you. In any case, Lidle's death combined with the bleak October weather did cast a gray shadow over tonight's game.

Tom Glavine started for the Mets and he breezed through the first three Cardinals batters the same way he went through the rest of the lineup for the next six innings--efficiently, with little drama, and taking full advantage of the extra inches on the outside edge of the plate that the home plate umpire consistently offered him. Even at forty, Glavine is one of the top five or so pitchers of the last twenty years and the Cardinals, the umpire and the crowd all deferred to his experience and skill on this drizzily evening.

The Cardinals starter was Jeff Weaver, a stork-like lanky right hander with curly blond hair pouring out of his red cap and an intense, pacing style on the mound in between pitches. After starting the season in a particularly dreadful manner with the Angels this spring, Jeff was eventually released after being outpitched by his little brother Jered, who is essentially what Jeff Weaver was six years ago--young, talented and highly desired. The Cardinals general manager, Walt Jocketty, who has made a career of snapping up undervalued (mostly veteran) players discarded by other, more hasty teams leaped at the opportunity to sign the elder Weaver, who proceeded to pitch only marginally better for the Cardinals than he had for the Angels. However, in this Cardinal season, marginally better than terrible meant that Weaver was better than two-fifths of the St. Louis staff and that's how found himself starting Game 1 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres. In that game Weaver pitched in and out of trouble, taking advantage of the weaker Padre hitters and an early Pujols homerun to earn the win by pitching five scoreless innings. Tonight, Weaver was much better, pitching what was probably his best game of the year, limiting the Mets to only one hit through five innings on good location and movement on his fastball and consistently staying ahead of hitters due to the generous strike zone. Then, in his third pass through the heart of the powerful New York lineup, Weaver gave the restless Shea crowd exactly what they had waited for: a scratch hit for Paul Lo Duca and then a mistake fastball to Carlos Beltran on a 2-2 count that burst the nervous knot that had formed in the stomachs of about 50,000 Mets fans and resulted in dancing, cheers and the occasional "Let's-Go-Mets" as Beltran rounded the bases.

The Cardinals accepted their loss meekly, the only real trouble coming in the eighth when Mota inexplicably walked David Eckstein on four pitches and then went 3-0 on Preston Wilson with Pujols on deck. After watching Mota throw two fastballs down the middle, Wilson fouled off a couple of good strikes and then decided that swinging at a ball out of the zone might have a better result, finally popping up ball four for the third out and leaving Albert Pujols and the Cardinals's last real shot at victory standing in the on deck circle.

Even though the Cardinals squandered a great opportunity for a 1-0 series lead tonight, they're a long way from being out of this series. The Mets took a must-win game for them tonight. If they lose to Weaver they then face Carpenter and might be down 2-0 going back to St. Louis. Now the Cardinals have a must win game--they simply must take advantage of Carpenter's starts in order to have a chance in this series. Hopefully they can get Maine out of the game by the fifth inning and have a shot at the Mets's bullpen before Wagner comes in, which apparently will only be in the ninth inning when the Mets's have a lead (Chad Bradford was warming up to face Pujols in the eighth when Wilson almost walked!). Let's go, Redbirds.

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