for this game

Beltran returns to Citi Field as Cards open series with Mets

Jun 1, 2012 - 4:03 PM (Sports Network) - Carlos Beltran returns to Citi Field this evening when the St. Louis Cardinals open a four-game set with the New York Mets.

Beltran spent six-plus seasons in New York before being dealt to San Francisco late last season. Beltran averaged close to 30 home runs and over 100 RBI through his first three seasons with the Mets, but was plagued by injuries for most of the second half of his tenure.

However, he has been perhaps the best player in the National League this season, hitting .290 with 15 home runs and 41 RBI, while filling the enormous void left by Albert Pujols in the St. Louis lineup.

"I've certainly been aware of when he was red hot and hit all the homers," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's still got 15 homers and he's having a great year, and I'm very happy for him.

"He's a great guy. He came here and played his heart out for me. But if there's a time he gets cold, I hope it starts Friday night. It will be nice to talk to him, nice to congratulate him for the start he's been off to this year, but we've got to get him out."

Beltran is a huge reason why the Cardinals are just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central. However, if they are going to overtake the Cincinnati Reds and make a push towards the postseason, the Cards are going to need Adam Wainwright to get back to being the pitcher he was before Tommy John surgery cost him last season.

Over his last two starts Wainwright has resembled that pitcher, winning both outings, while surrendering one run in 15 innings of those outings. Wainwright followed up his four-hit shutout over the Padres back on May 22 by beating Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, holding them to a run and seven hits in six innings to run his record to 4-5 to go along with a 4.45 ERA.

Wainwright has faced the Mets four times (two starts) and is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA against them.

New York will counter with a hurler returning from injury himself in lefty Johan Santana, who is 2-2 with a 2.75 after also missing all of last season recovering from shoulder surgery.

Santana has not taken a loss since April 17, and registered a quality start in six of seven starts since that date. His best start came on Saturday, oddly enough against the Padres, as he struck out seven in a four-hit shutout.

He has faced the Cardinals five times and is 2-0 with a 3.44 ERA.

The Mets enter tonight's tilt on the heels of taking two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies. They were denied a sweep with a 10-6 loss in Wednesday's finale, but still sit 1 1/2 games back of the Washington Nationals in the NL East.

The Mets went 15-13 in May after going 13-10 in April. It is the first time since 2007 that the Mets posted a winning record in both months.

New York split its six meetings with the Cards last season.