The Mets broke out their pinstripes and blue caps last night and forced a seventh game in this LCS. After losing Game 5 in St. Louis on Tuesday night the Mets came home to play a game they had to win and faced a pitching matchup that heavily favored the Cardinals. What followed was described by Paul Lo Duca as "the maturation of John Maine", and it's hard to argue with his assessment. Maine allowed just two hits (plus four walks and a HBP) in 5.1 innings of work, and for the first time that I can recall was actually able to get some of his secondary pitches -- his slider and occasionally his changeup -- over for strikes. This start not only helped the Mets push this series to the brink, but it also provided a window into the potential of Maine as a starter for this ballclub down the road.
Once Maine exited the bullpen took over and was stellar through the eighth inning, with Chad Bradford and Aaron Heilman sandwiching scoreless frames around Guillermo Mota's double play groundout of Scott Rolen. The Mets' setup men were able to keep their pitch counts to a minimum (Bradford 14, Mota 4, Heilman 12) and all three will undoubtedly be available for duty tonight. The only blemish on the pitching record was another disconcerting effort by Billy Wagner, who allowed two runs on three hits while pitching on five days rest. Wagner was beat again by So Taguchi, who (again) survived an egregious non-third-strike call by the home plate umpire to dump a two-run double down the left field line. Wagner's slider was pretty sloppy, which isn't particularly uncommon for a pitcher who hasn't thrown in a number of days. Still, Wagner hasn't been able to put away these Cardinal hitters, and he hasn't struck out a single batter in 2.2 innings this series.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Mets got contributions galore from Jose Reyes, who hit a homerun to lead off the game, picked up two singles and swiped two bases. Shawn Green has managed to offset his laughable play in right field by leading the team in hitting this series, picking up two more base knocks last night including an RBI single in the fourth. Perhaps most importantly, the Mets managed to pick up a win against a tough pitcher with little firepower from the Carloses, as Beltran and Delgado combined to go just 1-for-8 (though the one was a single by Beltran who would eventually come around to score. David Wright picked up a single and now has hits in each of the last three games (woot!) and Endy Chavez picked up a [bunt] single as well, thumbing his nose at my good friend Marc Normandin in the process.
So here we are. Six games have been played and we're no closer to determining a series winner than we were when this thing started last Thursday. By this time tomorrow the Mets and the Cardinals will have played seven games in eight days and one team will be headed for Detroit, tired and worn down, but nonetheless playing for the World Series.