Series preview: Mets at Cardinals

METS (3-6, fifth place/NL East) at CARDINALS (6-3, first place/NL Central)

Friday: RHP Oliver Perez (0-1, 6.35) vs. RHP Chris Carpenter (1-0, 5.73), 8:15 p.m. ET

Saturday: LHP Johan Santana (1-1, 4.91) vs. LHP Jaime Garcia (1-0, 1.50), 4:10 p.m. ET

Sunday: RHP John Maine (0-1, 13.50) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (2-0, 1.20), 8:05 p.m., ET

Cardinals short hops:

Reigning National League MVP Albert Pujols’ homer off Houston left-hander Wandy Rodriguez on Monday gave the slugger 371 career longballs. That’s the major league record for the most in the first 10 years of a career, surpassing Eddie Mathews -- and it took Pujols only seven games into his 10th season. Ralph Kiner is third on the list at 369. … The re-signing of left fielder/cleanup hitter Matt Holliday for seven years, $120 million appears to be paying dividends in terms of Pujols getting more pitches to hit with the protection. In his first 18 plate appearances with runners on base, Pujols was 9-for-15 with four homers, 14 RBI and three walks. The Cardinals were 52-46 and 1½ games ahead of the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs when Holliday was acquired last season. From July 24 through the end of the season, St. Louis went a National League-best 39-25 with Holliday. Only the Yankees had a better record during that stretch at 45-22. Still, Pujols’ average didn’t jump last year after Holliday’s arrival. It was .324 with a homer every 9.4 at-bats pre-Holliday, and .328 with a homer every 18.1 at-bats afterward. Holliday’s contract is the third richest given to an outfielder. The two larger: Manny Ramirez (eight years, $160 million with the Boston Red Sox in 2000-01) and Alfonso Soriano (eight years, $136 million with the Chicago Cubs in 2006-07). … Chris Carpenter, who finished second in the National League Cy Young balloting last season to San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum, has allowed five homers in 11 innings while struggling with his cut fastball control. Carpenter surrendered seven homers in 192 2/3 innings last season. … Rookie Jaime Garcia topped the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday, allowing one run in six innings in his first major league start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2008. Garcia became the first left-handed starter to win a game for the Cardinals since Mark Mulder on June 15, 2006. The drought of no southpaw starter recording a victory was three times the next-longest active streak, by the Atlanta Braves. … Adam Wainwright, who has not faced the Mets since snapping off that infamous curveball to Carlos Beltran to complete Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series, tossed eight scoreless innings Monday against the Houston Astros in St. Louis’ home opener. He finished strongly, retiring the final nine batters, as his fastball velocity sat at 93-94 mph. Wainwright and Carpenter’s combined 2.45 ERA and 36 wins led the majors for a pair of teammates last season. The second-best combined ERA belonged to San Francisco Giants teammates Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum at 2.68, followed by the Braves’ Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vazquez at 2.74. The Wainwright-Joel Pineiro combo actually finished second to Wainwright-Carpenter in combined wins with 34. The Yankees’ CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte and the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello combined for 33 apiece. … Catcher Bryan Anderson was promoted to replace Jason LaRue, who landed on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, which he suffered Sunday in Milwaukee. Anderson, 23, hit .245 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 53 games last season with Triple-A Memphis. No. 1 catcher Yadier Molina, who dealt with a right oblique strain that cost him the final two weeks of spring training, has shown no ill effects from the injury during the regular season. Molina is hitting .185 with two homers, however, after going 0-for-9 in three games against the Astros. Molina picked off eight runners last season, comfortably tops in the majors, ahead of runner-ups Raul Chavez and Rob Johnson (three apiece). … Hitting coach Mark McGwire was received warmly Monday at Busch Stadium, in his first game in uniform since 2001. McGwire had attended the closing of the former Busch Stadium, but otherwise had remained away from Cardinals games until joining manager Tony La Russa’s staff. … Brendan Ryan has started slowly at the plate (2-for-24), which prompted La Russa to give Felipe Lopez his first start at shortstop in two years. Right fielder Ryan Ludwick succeeded Ryan as the No. 2 hitter. … Rookie David Freese, who is hitting .308, mans third base. He also made last year’s Opening Day roster, but was demoted April 22, 2009 when Brian Barden and Joe Thurston established themselves. Freese then needed midseason surgery on his left ankle -- an injury that lingered from an auto accident. … Center fielder Colby Rasmus has a team-high nine walks, four shy of David Wright’s MLB-leading total. Rasmus, who had only 36 walks last season, had a particularly strong spring, hitting .362 with five homers. … Before slipping in Thursday’s series finale against the Astros, St. Louis’ lone two losses had come via walk-off homers -- Cincinnati’s Jonny Gomes off Jason Motte and Milwaukee’s Casey McGehee off Kyle McClellan. … Closer Ryan Franklin had a mediocre spring and isn’t overpowering, but earned his first All-Star Game invite last year.


Perez vs. Cardinals (career: 2-5, 4.84 ERA)

Albert Pujols .393, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 28 AB

Yadier Molina .389, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 18 AB

Felipe Lopez .318, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 22 AB

Brendan Ryan .250, 4 AB

Ryan Ludwick .167, 6 AB

Matt Holliday .125, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 16 AB

Santana vs. Cardinals (career: 2-0, 2.63 ERA)

Albert Pujols .500, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 12 AB

Yadier Molina .364, 1 RBI, 11 AB

Matt Holliday .250, 1 RBI, 4 AB

Skip Schumaker .200, 10 AB

Ryan Ludwick .182, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 22 AB

Felipe Lopez .000, 7 RBI

Brendan Ryan .000, 7 AB

Joe Mather .000, 4 AB

Maine vs. Cardinals (career: 1-2, 6.23 ERA)

Colby Rasmus .667, 3 AB

Matt Holliday .571, 1 RBI, 7 AB

Albert Pujols .455, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 11 AB

Yadier Molina .333, 9 AB

Skip Schumaker .250, 1 RBI, 4 AB

Felipe Lopez .133, 1 RBI, 15 AB

Brendan Ryan .000, 2 AB

Carpenter vs. Mets (career: 1-4, 4.80 ERA)

Gary Matthews Jr. .500, 3 RBI 12 AB

Rod Barajas .400, 5 AB

Luis Castillo .304, 23 AB

Jeff Francoeur .300, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 10 AB

Alex Cora .250, 4 AB

David Wright .222, 9 AB

Henry Blanco .214, 2 RBI, 14 AB

Jose Reyes .167, 6 AB

Fernando Tatis .091, 2 RBI, 11 AB

Jason Bay .077, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 26 AB

Garcia vs. Mets (career: never faced)

Jason Bay .000, 1 AB

Wainwright vs. Mets (career: 0-0, 18.00 ERA)

Henry Blanco .571, 1 RBI, 7 AB

Rod Barajas .500, 4 AB

Jeff Francoeur .375, 8 AB

Jason Bay .353, 2 RBI, 17 AB

Angel Pagan .000, 2 AB

Jose Reyes .000, 1 RBI, 1 AB

David Wright .000, 1 AB

Last series results:

Mets split 1-1 at Citi Field, Aug. 4-5, 2009 (AP game recaps)

Cardinals 12, Mets 7 (10 innings): Albert Pujols made it sound so simple. All he had to do to snap out of his brief slump was make sure he had good swings. Facing the Mets' pitching may have helped, too. Whatever the reason, Pujols put that mini-funk behind him in style. Pujols hit a grand slam in the 10th inning for his second homer of the game and the Cardinals rallied. Pujols finished with four hits and five RBIs for the Cardinals, ending an 0-for-13 skid with his ninth multihomer game of the season. Ryan Ludwick also went deep and drove in two runs for St. Louis. The Cardinals scored eight times in the last three innings to hand New York its fifth loss in six games. With two out and the bases loaded in the 10th, Sean Green replaced Pedro Feliciano (4-4) and hit Mark DeRosa on the left elbow with his first pitch to give St. Louis an 8-7 lead. With the Citi Field crowd still jeering Green, Pujols hit an 0-2 pitch into the seats in left to tie Ernie Banks' NL record of five slams in a season set in 1955. The All-Star slugger is 7-for-9 with 24 RBIs with the bases loaded this year and leads the majors with 36 homers. He is one slam behind the major league record for a season held by Travis Hafner and Don Mattingly. Kyle McClellan (3-2) pitched a scoreless 10th for St. Louis, which managed to get the win despite a shaky outing by Joel Pineiro. Johan Santana hit a two-run double and pitched a season-high eight innings for New York, which fell nine games behind NL wild card-leading Colorado and lost another player to an injury. Second baseman Luis Castillo slipped trying to avoid a glove on the dugout steps, spraining his left ankle after he grounded out leading off the seventh. X-rays were negative. St. Louis scored two runs in the ninth to tie it at 7 and hand Francisco Rodriguez his fourth blown save in 28 opportunities this season. Rick Ankiel and Julio Lugo opened the inning with consecutive doubles, and Skip Schumaker had an RBI single with one out.

Mets 9, Cardinals 0: Rookie Jonathon Niese became the latest injury victim, injuring his right hamstring tendon while covering first base against the St. Louis Cardinals and then collapsing when he tried to throw a practice pitch. Niese was hurt in the second inning when Joe Thurston hit a one-out grounder to Daniel Murphy with runners at the corners. The first baseman threw to shortstop Angel Berroa, who made a return throw to first. Niese stretched and wound up doing the splits as Thurston beat the throw. When Niese tried to throw a warmup pitch from the stretch, he grimaced at the end of his follow-through, fell and held the back of his right leg. He needed assistance to leave the field, putting his arms around two trainers. A 22-year-old left-hander, Niese was making his third start for the Mets since taking over a rotation slot from Fernando Nieve, who tore a muscle in his right thigh trying to beat out a grounder at Atlanta on July 19. Niese, 1-1 since his recall from the minors, allowed one hit in 1 2-3 innings against the Cardinals, struck out two and walked one. He was replaced by Nelson Figueroa, who lasted just five outs against Arizona two days earlier, allowing six runs and 10 hits in a 6-5 loss. Figueroa retired Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse on an inning-ending flyout and pitched 4 1/3 innings in all. Injury-ravaged New York, which began the day fourth in the NL East at 50-56, has nine players on the disabled list, including center fielder Carlos Beltran, first baseman Carlos Delgado, shortstop Jose Reyes and setup man J.J. Putz. Second baseman Luis Castillo was out of the starting lineup, a day after spraining his left ankle when he slipped and fell in the dugout. Castillo grounded out leading off the seventh the previous night. He was on his way back to the bench when he tumbled down the dugout steps and needed to be helped up the tunnel to the clubhouse by some teammates. Left fielder Gary Sheffield, just off the disabled list last weekend, aggravated a hamstring injury while rounding first base after a sixth-inning hit and came out of the game to avoid a setback.