One Down, Nine to Go

It looked simple enough for Chris Carpenter facing his first five hitters, all things considered. And, by the time it all ended in a 6-1 Mets win Sunday night, you could have thought the wrong names were on the wrong pitchers' backs. It would be Tom Glavine pitching like a master carpenter shaping and remaking fine mahogany for most of his outing, and it would be Carpenter being chiseled, planed, and sanded after he managed to get the first five men he faced out.

By the time it all ended, you'd think the wrong names were on the wrong pitchers' backs. It would be Glavine pitching like a master carpenter shaping fine mahogany and Carpenter — who dodged in the second after Moises Alou's first official at-bat as a Met turned into a clean two-out single up the pipe, and Shawn Green cued one just beyond David Eckstein's leap with old man Alou grinding like a greenhorn to third, before Jose Valentin lined out right to Pujols — being chiseled, planed, and sawed in the third and fourth innings.

And it would be Glavine standing one down, nine to go en route his 300th major league win after his night was ended. He did it by looking for the most part as though he could have been blindfolded and still beaten the Cardinals on instruments. He threw most of his outing as though everything leaving his hand was programmed for the corners with little deviation, only occasional shudders, and even a little mischief making of his own on the hitting side.

Glavine opened the New York third with a shuttlecock single the other way to left. Oh, he'd be forced on Paul Lo Duca's grounder after Jose Reyes got swished on a nasty climber that looked more as though Carpenter caught Reyes thinking badly than Carpenter making a properly teasing pitch, but Carpenter was now vulnerable enough, as his unusual plunk off Beltran's right knee — Beltran had just lined one barely to the foul side of the right field pole, and Carpenter normally throws inside tight without making much contact — made obvious enough.

The Mets had to know this was the time to strike before the smart right-hander rehorsed himself. Carlos Delgado certainly did. He banged one the other way, just beyond left fielder So Taguchi and off the top of the left field bullpen fence, room enough for Lo Duca and Beltran to come home with the 2-0 lead.

Glavine's lone moment of early uncertainty came in the Cardinal third after Adam Kennedy — whose keystone reunion with Eckstein in the field looked like 2002 in red all over save the change in insignia (Angel fans won't forget the three pennant-winning bombs he hit in Minnesota anytime soon) — rammed a triple to deep center, helping himself with some grinding baserunning. But Carpenter on the squeeze, with Kennedy almost halfway down the line, dropped a dead fish in front of the plate. Lo Duca pounced up in front of the plate, ran Kennedy back up the line, and threw to Wright, and Kennedy was a dead bird before Eckstein flied out for the side.

Alou opened the fourth with a rising liner that rose enough to let center fielder Jim Edmonds glide left to spear it. But Green and Valentin singled their way to first and third and Carpenter didn't look much like his customary self anymore. After Glavine sacrificed Valentin to second, Carpenter couldn't lure Reyes into offering at three off-zone curve balls before walking him on a 3-1 changeup to load the pads for Lo Duca. And he couldn't get ahead of Lo Duca, falling behind 2-0, then coming even 2-2 (a called strike fastball and a foul off the plate), then throwing a balky changeup low and away to load the count.

Lo Duca loaded one right up the pipe and under Kennedy's dive behind second for a two-run single and Reyes the rabbit on third and all of a sudden the Mets had a 4-0 advantage, all four runs scoring in two-out pairs. Then Beltran lined one up the pipe to send home Reyes for the fifth run before Carpenter escaped further destruction by getting Delgado to ground out to Eckstein.

Glavine continued his clinic of brain pitching. He swished Wilson, lured a ground out to third out of Pujols, and shuddered only briefly before Alou hauled down Scott Rolen's deep fly in the fourth. He answered Yadier Molina's fifth-inning leadoff rap with a double play ball he threw as if he'd written the order on the meat of the ball in such language as Edmonds had no choice to obey, before throwing out Taguchi himself in the fifth.

He didn't buckle until the sixth, when pinch-hitter Skip Shumaker (for Carpenter) singled with one out and Eckstein doubled into the left field corner to cash him in, but even a master craftsman needs a little help from his apprentices once in awhile, and Glavine got it in the next Cardinal at-bat, when Wilson punched a single up the pipe and Beltran, on a slightly ridiculous throw, nailed Eckstein at the plate. Glavine shook off a walk to Pujols and an unusual plunk on Rolen to lad the bases, and just when you thought the Cardinals might tighten the game back up, Molina popped one out to Reyes to strand the pads loaded.

Eckstein's night was that kind of night. The Cardinals' resident pest had opened their side of the proceedings with a clean single up the pipe, and had all of about five minutes to enjoy picking up where he'd left off in the World Series before Preston Wilson slashed into a double play, ripping one up the third base line on a couple of hops, and right into David Wright's glove.

Alou won't be called the old man too easily after robbing Kennedy to start the St. Louis sixth with a catch on a dive that could have launched him toward a swimming record if it had been into a pool.

The Mets' remade/remodeled bullpen performed a few of their usual acrobatics to finish what Glavine started, Pedro Feliciano mostly breezing until he needed Aaron Heilman to bail him out of a major jam with an inning-ending double play pitch in the eighth, and Billy Wagner walked his usual high wire in the ninth, working with first and second and one out when he got an infield pop and a right field fly to end it.

Somewhere in there, the Mets managed to pad their lead in the ninth (inning-opening back-to-back singles, a rare enough instance of Reyes caught stealing, and Lo Duca driving one home with a single to left). But somewhere in there an old man whose lingering resemblance to Beaver Cleaver keeps him from looking his age, anyway, spoke of his evening's work in the style that has marked him for two decades and 291 wins.

"When I had to make some pitches," Glavine told reporters after the game, "I did. I was able to get some ground balls and some double plays when I needed them."

Look at it from Glavine's vantage point. Virtuoso rhetoric doesn't set you up to within nine wins of becoming baseball's fifth left-handed 300-game winner. Silver tongues don't necessarily keep you such company as Spahn, Carlton, Plank, and Grove, even if they're attached to brains at least the equal of those ferocious gentlemen.

"I guarantee," Glavine spent about two-thirds of his spring training saying, "nobody looked at me in 1988 and thought, 'That guy's going to have a chance to win 300 games some day.'" They just weren't looking at the right part of him. The part between his ears that gives the deceptive left arm its orders.

Preston Wilson was. "He's a pitcher," the Cardinals' right fielder was quoted as saying after Sunday night's fall. "In every sense of the word." The emphasis seemed to be on sense.

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