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Santana To Start Tonight As Mets Face Cardinals

(Sports Network) - The last time St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jamie Garcia faced New York Mets ace Johan Santana, the rookie was able to match the two- time Cy Young Award winner pitch-for-pitch.

He may find that to be more difficult tonight.

Garcia and Santana face off for the first time since St. Louis and New York engaged in a 20-inning marathon back in April when the two teams continue a three-game set tonight at Citi Field.

Santana threw seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball versus the Cardinals on April 17, walking just one batter while striking out nine. Garcia, in just his third career start and first against the Mets, was even better. The 24-year- old yielded just one hit and two walks over seven shutout innings.

Neither starter got a decision, though, as the Mets eventually won a 2-1 contest in 20 innings.

Garcia hasn't slowed down since that outing, going 9-4 with a 2.21 earned run average this season. The southpaw is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA over his last four starts, giving up just a run on four hits and two walks while striking out six over seven innings of a victory over the Phillies last Wednesday.

Santana's outing versus the Cardinals, whom he is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA against lifetime, was part of a first half that saw him carry a 5-5 record and 3.55 ERA into July. However, the 31-year-old lefty is 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA in five starts this month, lowering his season ERA to 2.79.

His latest win came on Friday versus the Dodgers, with Santana giving up just a run on five hits over seven innings of work.

The Mets will turn to their ace tonight in the hopes of notching a second straight victory. New York returned home on Tuesday after a disastrous 2-9 road trip, but was able to hammer the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright for an 8-2 triumph.

Jeff Francoeur and Jose Reyes both homered as New York matched its run total from its previous four games combined. Carlos Beltran added two hits, an RBI and a run scored, while Jon Niese allowed a run over six-plus innings to get the victory.

The Mets won despite being without Jason Bay, who is sidelined due to concussion-like symptoms after crashing into the outfield wall in Friday's game with the Dodgers. Manager Jerry Manuel was also absent from Tuesday's opener as he served a one-game suspension for his actions on Friday in Los Angeles.

Entering the game with a 25-inning scoreless streak, Wainwright was tagged for a season-high six runs on six hits and three walks over five innings.

"Tonight was fun against a guy like Wainwright," Francoeur said afterward. "Facing him is not exactly the best way to get started after our road trip, but for us it was nice."

Ryan Ludwick drove in a run in the first inning and later scored for the Cardinals, who have lost four of five following an eight-game winning streak and fell into a virtual tie with Cincinnati for first place in the National League Central.

The Cardinals won two of three at home over the Mets from April 16-18, but lost four of six at Citi Field a season ago.