NEW YORK (AP) - This is not what Kyle McClellan and the St. Louis Cardinals had in mind coming out of the All-Star break.
Angel Pagan homered with one out in the 10th inning to give the New York Mets a 6-5 win over the sputtering Cardinals, who squandered a four-run lead Wednesday night.
Locked in a tight race near the top of the NL Central, St. Louis has dropped four of five since the break.
``You've got to finish out games and we haven't been able to do that very well,' said Matt Holliday, who had three hits and two RBIs. ``We've got two months left, 2 1/2 months left. So yeah, you've got to start winning games. I mean, you're not going to win the division and accomplish your goals losing. But at the same time, you don't panic and start doubting yourself.'
Albert Pujols was out of the starting lineup, rested against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey with a scorching day game on deck Thursday. But the Cardinals built a 4-0 lead for McClellan, who is 0-5 with a 5.48 ERA in his last eight starts.
Carlos Beltran hit a two-run homer and new father Josh Thole had two RBIs for the Mets (49-48), including a tying single off Jason Motte with two outs in the eighth.
``That was a strange game in some ways,' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ``At the end of the game we did a lot of chasing, which is not our style.'
The teams are back at it Thursday at 12:10 p.m., with expected temperatures in the mid-90s accompanied by sweltering humidity.
Pagan connected on the first pitch from Fernando Salas (5-4), hitting a drive off the facing of the second deck in right field for his first career game-ending homer.
Right after he swung, Pagan pumped his fist and watched the ball fly as he tossed his bat aside. When he returned to home plate, he was mobbed by teammates in a joyous celebration.
``Fastball, right down Broadway,' Pagan said.
Jason Isringhausen (2-0) worked two scoreless innings for the win - one night after notching his 294th career save and first this season. Facing his former team, the veteran right-hander struck out Pujols, Holliday and Lance Berkman in succession.
Pujols entered as a pinch-hitter with a runner on third and two outs in the seventh. He fouled out against reliever Pedro Beato, keeping the score tied at 4, and remained in the game at first base.
Backup catcher Gerald Laird put St. Louis ahead 5-4 in the eighth with a savvy bunt single with Holliday on third.
``I've done that a few times,' Laird said. ``We had plenty of chances to win the game today, we just didn't get it done.'
A throwing error by shortstop Daniel Descalso on a tough play allowed Pagan to reach safely leading off the bottom of the inning. He scored from third when Thole lined Motte's second pitch to left.
``Just got to put a better throw on that one,' Descalso said. ``Pagan runs well, got to get rid of it quick, just threw it high.'
With two outs in the fifth and the Mets down 4-2, Beltran worked an eight-pitch at-bat against McClellan and sent a two-run shot soaring deep into the second deck in right field for his 15th homer.
``I'm sure he'd like to have that one back,' La Russa said. ``He didn't want to throw a fastball where he threw it.'
Beltran, who can become a free agent after the season, is at the center of trade talk all around baseball. The switch-hitting slugger is perhaps the biggest prize available on the market as the July 31 non-waiver deadline approaches.
``Not really thinking about it. I hear what you hear, but I have to prepare myself and help the team any way I can,' he said. ``I cannot assume anything right now. Nobody's talked to me. Nobody's said anything to me.'
NOTES: It was the first time Pujols didn't start since he came off the DL on July 5. Berkman replaced Pujols at first base and John Jay started in Berkman's usual spot, right field. ... All-Star C Yadier Molina also was rested. La Russa said he might give Berkman a breather Thursday. ... A fan ran into the outfield in the top of the sixth and eluded several security guards for a while before he was tackled - not far from Beltran. The fan was detained and led away through a gate in the right-field fence.
The Associated Press News Service
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