The problem was, however, the Cardinals didn't have any answers for Mets left-hander Tom Glavine and struggled on the basepaths as they were blanked, 2-0. St. Louis collected just four hits in the game.
The Cardinals were expecting Glavine to rely heavily on his fastball and changeup. He did just that. But what they didn't expect was for him to throw his share of pitches on the inside part of the plate, according to third baseman Scott Rolen. Glavine lives and dies on the outside part of the plate, but the Cardinals had a tough night adjusting to Glavine's new game plan.
Catcher Yadier Molina was the only position player on the Cardinals who didn't have any problems against Glavine. He singled to right field in the third inning and walked two innings later.
"He was totally different. In the past, he lived and died away, and tonight he was throwing in and throwing strikes," said Rolen, who went 0-for-3 in the game. "He was pitching in there to me. That's a little different. That's an adjustment I had to make. He changes speeds in there. When you can throw a fastball and changeup inside and throw them both for strikes, it's going to be a tough night."
Still, St. Louis had two opportunities to get to Glavine in the third and fourth innings, respectively.
In the third, the Cardinals had runners on first and second and one out, but on a hit-and-run play, shortstop David Eckstein lined out to third baseman David Wright, who doubled up Molina at second base to end the inning.
"When we hit it hard, it seemed like it was right at somebody," Eckstein said. "I was hoping it was a base hit. It could have been a triple play if there were no outs. Both guys were running. It's one of those things. It definitely could have been a momentum shifter."
But the biggest baserunning mistake came from Albert Pujols, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player. With one out, Pujols walked after getting behind in the count, 1-2. Juan Encarnacion followed and hit a lazy fly ball to Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, who caught the ball and easily doubled up Pujols at first to end the inning. The hit-and-run was not on, and Pujols was too far from first base to get back in time.
After the game, Pujols didn't seem to think that his blunder was a big deal. Asked if he thought the ball was dropping in for a base hit, Pujols said, "I didn't think anything."
Asked if he was frustrated with himself, Pujols responded, "Nope. Why [should] I be frustrated? I can't make a mistake? Am I perfect?"
Molina and manager Tony La Russa, on the other hand, were surprised to see Pujols make that kind of baserunning miscue.
"It surprised me a lot, because he is one of the best baserunners in baseball," Molina said. "He is smart. It's going to happen. It's too bad it happened in the first game of this series. [Friday] we have to be ready and forget about tonight."
"Let me tell you, Albert is an outstanding baserunner, and I'm not exaggerating, he's an outstanding baserunner," La Russa said. "Part of it is aggressiveness and almost always he mixes in good sense. That was the exception. They had a read when he first read it, he read blooper, but the ball hung up in the wind and [it was] basically a mistake, a rare one for him."
St. Louis was down, 2-0, when it had a chance to get to reliever Guillermo Mota in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two outs, Eckstein walked to bring up Preston Wilson, who represented the tying run. Wilson was ahead in the count, 3-0, but five pitches later, with the count full, he popped up to first baseman Carlos Delgado, ending a chance for Pujols to step to the plate with the tying run on base.
"Mota did a great job coming back, because we had Albert sitting in the wings. That would have been a key at-bat for us," Eckstein said. "This club doesn't give up. We played hard, [and] we came up a little short tonight, but we'll be ready tomorrow night."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.