Cardinals silence Mets offense in rainy loss

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All the momentum and good energy from the Mets’ Subway Series takedown of the Yankees was zapped away on Monday night when the Cardinals came to town.

With a quiet crowd of only 19,057 at Citi Field, and an equally reserved offense, the Mets lost 7-0 to St. Louis in the series opener Monday night.

After exploding for 24 runs against their crosstown rivals this past weekend, the Amazin’s lineup went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base on the way to getting shut out by the Cardinals.

The Mets’ best chance to make some noise came in the eighth inning, when they had runners on the corners with no outs against right-hander Alex Reyes. Their home-run leader walked up to the plate, as a steady drizzle poured over Flushing, and represented the tying run. Pete Alonso struck out on four pitches, and the ensuing at-bats only grew more uncompetitive. Javy Baez also swung wildly at Reyes’ sliders, before Jeff McNeil went down with his second strikeout of the night to complete the Mets’ underwhelming performance.

“We all are frustrated after a loss,” said manager Luis Rojas, who added Alonso slammed his helmet and bat following his eighth-inning whiff. “I think he is beating himself up. He’s tough on himself. But he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

Monday night began with a matchup between the two oldest active pitchers in Major League Baseball. The combined age of the starting pitchers is 81, and they have 33 seasons in the big leagues between them.

Mets left-hander Rich Hill, who is 41 years and 186 days old, went toe-to-toe against Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, who is 40 years and 14 days old. It was the first time a Mets starter who is 40 or older faced an opposing starter also 40 or older since June 18, 2015. Six years ago on that date, Bartolo Colon (42 years and 25 days) dueled R.A. Dickey (40 years and 232 days). Before Monday night’s Hill-Wainwright matchup, that Colon-Dickey duel was the last time in MLB that two 40-something pitchers squared off.

The oldest combined age for a starting-pitcher matchup featuring a Mets starter came in Sept. 2007, when Tom Glavine (41 years and 173 days) faced Philadelphia’s Jamie Moyer (44 years and 300 days).

So how did these two 2021 seasoned veterans fare?

Hill took home the loss after he gave up three earned runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts over five innings. Wainwright got the win, his 16th of the season, after keeping the Mets off the board across six scoreless innings. Wainwright allowed just four hits over his 103 pitches. Hill’s signature moment of the game was when he struck out Nolan Arenado on a 67-mph curveball in the third inning. Wainwright, well, he shut out the Amazin’s.

“I like nostalgia, and I felt like all the Mets fans in a bases loaded situation wanted to see me throw two curveballs and a changeup [to Jeff McNeil] and get him out,” said Wainwright, referencing the 2006 NLCS Game 7 heartbreak with his strikeout to Carlos Beltran. “Just gave the people what they wanted.”

“They did a good job of putting the bat on the ball,” Hill said of St. Louis’ performance. “Just unfortunately falling short there, and it’s something that doesn’t sit well with me. I understand we’re up against it right now, we gotta win ball games. Going out there and really not putting us in the best position possible, it stinks.”

Things got ugly in the top of the ninth inning when the Cardinals batted around the order during a four-run rally. Yennsy Diaz was charged with all four of those runs, as Luis Rojas was forced to go to long man Trevor Williams to stop the bleeding.

The Mets (72-73) can look forward to Marcus Stroman, their best pitcher, making his major-league-leading 31st start of the year on Tuesday in hopes of tying the three-game series with St. Louis (74-69). The Amazin’s dropped to 5.5 games behind the first-place Braves, and 3.5 games back of the second wild-card spot after Monday’s loss.

“It’s scoreboard-watching time of year right now,” Hill said. “I think everybody is very aware of where we are, in the wild card and in the division. It comes down to what we can control. We have to take care of business and win ball games.”

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