Beltran makes Mets' opening statement

The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran hit the lottery two years ago when he faced the St. Louis Cardinals in a National League Championship Series, parlaying a hot streak into a $119 million free-agent deal with the New York Mets.

Now he's doing his October thing again, in what looks like a virtual rerun of 2004.

Beltran played Cardinals-killer once more last night at Shea Stadium, when he cranked a two-run homer off Jeff Weaver in the sixth inning to break a scoreless tie in the Mets' 2-0 victory in Game 1 of the NLCS.

"It pains me that there's going to be an 'L' next to Jeff's name tomorrow. There's no way that he's a losing pitcher," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Jeff was outstanding. We hit too many balls in the air."

Mets left-hander Tom Glavine earned his 14th postseason victory, allowing four hits in seven shutout innings in another masterful performance.

"Tommy was the key," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He just quietly goes about his business, and he's a real leader on our staff."

Glavine, who has yet to give up a run in two postseason starts this October, tied Andy Pettitte for second on the all-time list and is one win shy of joining friend and former Atlanta Braves teammate John Smoltz at the top.

"I understand the importance of when I pitch now. At the same time, I'm trying to play mental games with myself and dismiss that," Glavine said. "I don't want to go out there with any added pressure."

Glavine and closer Billy Wagner combined to silence Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, who went 0-for-3 with a walk. After going 5-for-8 in the first two games of the NL Division Series against the San Diego Padres, Pujols is 0-for-10 in his past three games.

Meanwhile, Beltran is strutting his stuff on the postseason stage, a role he seems to relish.

It was two years ago that Beltran, then with the Houston Astros, almost single-handedly pushed St. Louis to the seventh game of the NLCS before bowing out.

Beltran hit .417 with four home runs against the Cardinals and .435 with eight home runs in the 2004 postseason to earn a seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets.

"Every time you do something in October it means a lot," Beltran said. "Hitting the home run today of course brings memories."

Said Randolph: "He's a big-game guy. He's shown what he can do in the postseason. He has a beautiful swing. He's a very special individual. You don't see the ball jump off the bat like that with many hitters."

Slowed by a quadriceps injury the final few weeks of the season, Beltran was only 2-for-11 in this year's playoffs before launching a 430-foot blast over the right-field wall on a 2-2 fastball from Weaver.

Until then, Weaver had allowed only four balls past the infield-three fly balls and Shawn Green's line single in the third.

After Paul Lo Duca grounded a single to left with one out in the sixth, Beltran did his Mr. October impersonation as a crowd of 56,311 created some sweet-sounding noise.

Poor running by Pujols and nifty fielding by the Mets' outfielders kept the Cardinals from threatening early.

After Glavine walked Pujols with one out in the fourth, Juan Encarnacion lifted a fly to medium center. Beltran got a slow start on the ball but managed to get to it in plenty of time. Pujols appeared to think the ball would drop in and easily was doubled off first on Beltran's throw.

Jim Edmonds singled with one out on the fifth before Ronnie Belliard hit a bloop into short left. Endy Chavez, who replaced Cliff Floyd in the third after Floyd re-injured his left Achilles tendon while running to first on a foul ball, made a diving catch, forcing Edmonds back to first.

Glavine then pitched around Yadier Molina, walking him with the pitcher on deck, and struck out Weaver to end the inning.

Now the Cardinals turn to ace Chris Carpenter to try to even the series tonight. La Russa said Wednesday he still was planning on using Jeff Suppan in Game 2 and Carpenter in Game 3 tomorrow at Busch Stadium. But after the rainout Wednesday, La Russa changed his mind and will start Carpenter in Game 2 tonight.

"I think the reasons to have him pitch Game 3 were still pretty good," La Russa said. "We went back, the club was showering, and [I] had a 15-minute meeting or so with the coaches ... and it was kind of a consensus. The more we talked about it ... it's his fifth day. That's when he's geared to pitch all year long. He should pitch."

Paul Sullivan writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Playoff Schedule


Oakland vs. Detroit

(Detroit leads 2-0) Tuesday Detroit 5, Oakland 1 Wednesday Detroit 8, Oakland 5 Today Oakland (Harden 4-0) at Detroit (Rogers 17-8), 4:30 p.m. Tomorrow Oakland (Haren 14-13) at Detroit (Bonderman 14-8), 4:30 p.m. *Sunday Oakland at Detroit, 4:40 p.m. *Tuesday Detroit at Oakland, 8:19 p.m. *Wednesday Detroit at Oakland, 8:19 p.m.


New York vs. St. Louis

(New York leads 1-0) Yesterday New York 2, St. Louis 0 Today St. Louis (Carpenter 15-8) at New York (Maine 6-5), 8:05 p.m. Tomorrow New York (Trachsel 15-8) at St. Louis (Suppan 12-7), 8:05 p.m. Sunday New York (Perez 3-13) at St. Louis (Reyes 5-8), 8:15 p.m. *Monday New York at St. Louis, 8:19 p.m. *Wednesday St. Louis at New York, 4:19 p.m. *Thursday St. Louis at New York, 8:19 p.m.

Baseball playoffs


NLCS Game 1: Mets 2, Cardinals 0


ALCS Game 3: Athletics (Rich Harden) @Tigers (Kenny Rogers), 4:30 p.m., chs. 45, 5

NLCS Game 2: Cardinals (Chris Carpenter) @Mets (John Maine), 8:05 p.m., chs. 45, 5

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