Beltran is enduring a 20-game homerless drought for the St. Louis Cardinals, who are clinging to the NL's second wild-card spot as they open a three-game home set Monday against the surging Mets.
It was a major story when Beltran came back to New York (64-70) for a series that began June 1. The outfielder signed a seven-year deal worth $119 million with the Mets in 2005, and was 2 for 18 with five strikeouts in his return as St. Louis (72-62) dropped three of four.
Beltran is hitting .160 with 23 strikeouts in the 20 games since he went deep Aug. 10 at Philadelphia. He was 5 for 35 with 10 strikeouts on the Cardinals' 4-6 road trip.
With little chance of catching Central-leading Cincinnati, St. Louis is one-half game ahead of the Dodgers and 1 1/2 in front of Pittsburgh in the race for the second wild card.
Five of the last six starters to face the Cardinals have not allowed an earned run against them, with Stephen Strasburg pitching six scoreless innings Sunday in Washington's 4-3 victory.
"I hate walking out of here when we could have been, through a tough trip, 5-5," manager Mike Matheny told the Cardinals' official website.
Mets starters fared well in the June series against St. Louis, with the first three not allowing a run before Dillon Gee gave up three in the finale. The Cardinals batted .180 with 41 strikeouts in those four games.
St. Louis will get its first look at New York right-hander Collin McHugh (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who will make his second career start. His debut was outstanding as he struck out nine and yielded two hits over seven scoreless innings Aug. 23 in a 1-0 home loss to Colorado."It was trying to contain the nerves," said McHugh, an 18th-round draft pick in 2008. "A lot of people gave some really good advice and said you're going to be nervous. It's a fact. Just contain those and go out and do your thing."
The Cardinals' top hitter, Yadier Molina , will be back in the lineup to face McHugh after Matheny gave him Sunday off. Molina, bothered by shoulder and neck pain, is batting .322.
"We just try to give him a little time when we can, even though it doesn't seem like September is the time to do it," Matheny said. "He needs it."
The Mets have won seven of eight after completing a three-game sweep in Miami with Sunday's 5-1 victory. Jason Bay , making his first start since Aug. 25, hit a grand slam to highlight a five-run first inning.
"It didn't feel any different - that was the weird part," Bay said. "My first start in a week or whatever it's been, but I've done this a million times, it wasn't really that awkward."
The Cardinals will start rookie Joe Kelly (4-6, 3.61), who owns a 2.30 ERA in day games as opposed to a 4.25 mark at night. Kelly also is better at home with a 3.06 ERA compared to his 4.45 road ERA.
The right-hander returned to the rotation to replace the struggling Lance Lynn on Wednesday and yielded five runs over five innings in a 5-0 loss at Pittsburgh.
|New York Mets|
|August 18, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 15, 2012||Rob Johnson||15-Day DL||Torn ligament, left thumb|
|August 02, 2012||Tim Byrdak||15-Day DL||Sore left shoulder|
|July 31, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Strained right thumb|
|July 31, 2012||Jason Bay||Day-to-Day||Bruised left calf|
|July 21, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 31, 2012||Rafael Furcal||15-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|August 30, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Left game - right elbow strain|
|August 28, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained upper back|
|August 25, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left wrist contusion|
|August 25, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Sprained ankle|
|August 21, 2012||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right hand injury|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals took another step toward a playoff spot, thanks to a misstep by the New York Mets .
Andres Torres lost an apparent leadoff double in the ninth inning when he was called out for missing first base, and the Cardinals held off the Mets 5-4 Monday.
"I've never seen it called. Not in the big leagues like that," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Cardinals closer Jason Motte tied a career high by getting a five-out save. The wild card-contending Cardinals' position improved when first base umpire Dave Rackley ruled Torres missed the bag and called him out on an appeal.
"He went over the front corner with his toe and it just kicked dirt up onto the base," Rackley said.
Rackley said he wouldn't make that call if he weren't sure.
"That's what I told Terry. I wouldn't make that up," Rackley said.
Crew chief Dale Scott said the umpires watched televised replays afterward and agreed the call was correct.
"It was exactly what (Rackley) described. His foot went over, the toes hit the ground, the heel never did," Scott said. "And did you see where (Rackley) was? He was right there to make the call."
Torres was standing on second after hitting a ball down the right-field line. Instead, he returned to the dugout.
"That's not happened in my career," Motte said. "It's one out and nobody one rather than no one out and a guy on second. They can bunt him over, they have a lot of options right there."
"It definitely changes that inning," he said.
Torres insisted he ran the bases right.
"I just touched the base with my heel," Torres said. "I never thought he was going to call me out, to be honest. What can I say? Nobody's perfect."
Collins came out to argue the play, to no avail.
"I get back to the bench, and I got 10 guys telling me he touched the bag," Collins said.
Cardinals star Carlos Beltran , who was on the bench, told manager Mike Matheny to make the appeal.
"We're saying our MVP is Carlos Beltran , who never hit the field," Matheny said.
Said Beltran: "I was in the cage and watching him running. He was looking at the ball and not the bag. I saw sand coming up around the bag area and told them let's try to throw to first."
Rookie Joe Kelly (5-6) pitched 6 2-3 effective innings and also doubled for the Cardinals.
Kelly allowed five hits and two runs. He made his second start after a brief stint in the bullpen, and turned in his longest outing of the season.
Edward Mujica got the last out of the seventh, giving him 16 straight scoreless appearances since coming over from Miami at the trade deadline.
Skip Schumaker hit a solo homer and Matt Carpenter drove in two runs for St. Louis. Yadier Molina and Allen Craig added RBI singles and Kelly scored a run.
Daniel Murphy and Kelly Shoppach hit two-run homers for New York, which had won three straight and seven of eight.
Collin McHugh (0-1), recalled from Triple-A Buffalo to make the start, lasted just four innings and gave up four runs.
"These guys fought and scratched all game and I put us in a pretty deep hole early on," McHugh said.
McHugh blanked the Colorado Rockies for seven innings Aug. 23 in his major league debut.
It took the Cardinals just two batters to give McHugh an ERA. Jon Jay led off with a triple into the left-field corner and Carpenter followed with an RBI groundout.
The Cardinals got two more in the third and Schumaker's first home run leading off the fourth made it 4-0.
Kelly had retired 10 batters in a row before walking Mike Baxter and then allowing Shoppach's homer in the seventh.
New York closed within a run on Murphy's homer off reliever Mitchell Boggs in the eighth. The Mets had the tying run at second with one out later in the inning when Motte got Scott Hairston on a soft liner and struck out Shoppach.
NOTES: Jamie Garcia (3-6) will oppose Mets rookie Matt Harvey (3-3) in the second game of the three-game set. ... Beltran, who endured a 5-for-35 road trip (.143) and is battling a sore knee, was out of the St. Louis starting lineup. ... Murphy went 2 for 4, giving him an NL-leading .344 average in day games.