(Sports Network) – With New York set to end July on a 10-game road trip, the possibility remains that Carlos Beltran could be playing his last home game as a Met this afternoon.
If that is the case, the outfielder will try to give the Citi Field crowd something to remember him by, specifically a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the final season of a seven-year, $119 million free agent deal signed with the Mets prior to the 2005 season, Beltran’s name has been consistent in the rumor mill leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. New York has already parted ways with one expensive roster member, dealing closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers on July 12.
After being limited to just 64 games last year due to injury, and 81 contests in 2009, Beltran is hitting .293 with 15 homers and 61 RBI through 92 games this season. He smashed a long two-run homer in last night’s 6-5 extra-inning victory, one game after both he and Jose Reyes (strained left hamstring) returned to the lineup after missing time.
Beltran had been out for a few games with the flu, but didn’t show any weakness at the plate. Neither did Angel Pagan, who gave New York its first and only lead of the game with a walk-off solo homer in the 10th inning.
“I was just trying to get something done for the team,” Pagan said. “I wasn’t looking for a home run. We’re just trying to win ballgames.”
Though Reyes and Beltran played, and third baseman David Wright may return tomorrow for the first time since May 15 due to a back injury, outfielder Jason Bay was forced to exit the contest in the fourth inning with a hamstring injury. Bay said it was more of a proactive move to come out, but it’s possible he could get the day off on Thursday.
Josh Thole finished with two hits and a pair of RBI for the Mets, who will try to sweep the Cardinals in three games for the first time since April 1-4, 2007 at St. Louis. It would also give New York its first winning streak of three straight contests since a four-game run from July 3-6.
The Mets and Cardinals split six meetings last year.
Matt Holliday registered three hits, two RBI and scored twice, including a go- ahead run in the eighth inning on Gerald Laird’s bunt towards third base. Thole, though, tied the game with an RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the frame.
Thole returned to club after missing one day due to the birth of his first child on Tuesday night.
Jon Niese will try to pitch the Mets to the sweep today and pick up a third straight winning decision. He was victorious in his last trip to the mound on Saturday, holding the Phillies to a pair of runs — one earned — on six hits over seven innings of an 11-2 blowout.
The left-hander threw 69 of his 103 pitches for strikes and struck out at least six batters for a fourth straight start, improving to 9-7 with a 3.73 earned run average on the season.
Niese, 24, has faced the Cardinals twice in his career, going 1-0 while yielding just one run over 7 2/3 innings.
St. Louis, which has lost three straight and seven of 10, is two games back of first place in the National League Central and turns today to Jake Westbrook. The right-hander is 7-4 with a 5.26 ERA in 19 starts this year, but is a much more serviceable 5-2 with a 3.79 ERA in 10 road outings.
Westbrook, who hasn’t lost since June 12, has posted a pair of no-decisions over his last two outings, both versus the Reds. He was drilled for seven runs over 4 1/3 innings against them on July 6, but allowed just a pair of homers in five frames of a rematch at Cincinnati on Friday. The right-hander settled down nicely after allowing a homer in the first inning.
“I thought he did a terrific job,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “Leadoff home run, and after that, held them down.”
The 33-year-old lost his only other career start versus the Mets, getting drilled for five runs and 11 hits over seven innings last June 17 while with Cleveland.