for this game

Mets host Cardinals to decide National League pennant

Oct 19, 2006 - 12:38 PM St Louis at NY Mets 8:05 pm EDT National League Championship Series Series tied, 3-3

FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) - Despite critical injuries to their pitching staff, the New York Mets are one win away from advancing to the World Series.

The Mets will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh and deciding game of the National League Championship Series on Thursday at Shea Stadium.

After ace Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez both were sidelined with calf injuries, New York was forced to piece together its pitching staff in the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and against the Cardinals. Steve Trachsel was ineffective in Game Three of this series, resting New York's season on the shoulders of a rookie on Wednesday.

John Maine pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings to outduel Chris Carpenter and the Mets survived a late scare from Billy Wagner with a 4-2 victory over St. Louis to force the seventh game.

"I wasn't that nervous. I knew what I had to do," Maine said. "If I could get a couple innings, it was all right."

Jose Reyes hit a leadoff homer, Shawn Green had an RBI single and Paul Lo Duca delivered a two-run base hit for New York.

Lefthander Tom Glavine was defeated in Game Five, forcing the Mets to put all their faith in Maine, an inexperienced righthander who had been shaky in a Game Two start against Carpenter.

The Game Four winner, Oliver Perez (1-0, 7.94 ERA) has been chosen as the starter in the final game and will be pitching on three days' rest.

"(Perez has) done a nice job for us since he's been here, very similar to Johnny Maine in a lot of ways. He's throwing the ball well," New York manager Willie Randolph said. "Last time he threw the ball real well. Like I said earlier, he needs to give us another quality start and just go with everything we've got (Thursday). Seventh game is exciting, and we're looking forward to that challenge."

However, Randolph, a playoff veteran as both a player and coach, has said that "all hands will be on deck" in the seventh game. Trachsel and Darren Oliver will both be available in long relief if Perez struggles.

In his first career postseason start, the lefthanded Perez allowed five runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings in Sunday's Game Four, a 12-5 victory.

After coming over in a midseason trade with Pittsburgh, Perez went 1-3 with a 6.38 ERA in seven starts for the Mets. The 25-year-old Mexican was 3-13 with a 6.55 ERA in 22 combined outings with the Pirates and Mets.

He will be opposed by Jeff Suppan (1-1, 2.19), who is 3-3 with a 3.07 ERA in seven career postseason starts.

Suppan pitched eight brilliant innings and also homered as St. Louis posted a 5-0 victory in Game Three in his only start this series.

"As a player coming into another ballpark, our focus is on the field and what we have to do," Suppan said. "So it's not always what ballpark you're playing in or this or that. If your focus is where it needs to be, then you're focusing on what you have to do to contribute."

However, Wednesday's Game Six might have been the Cardinals' best chance to clinch a World Series berth. No team has won Game Seven of an LCS on the road after losing Game Six.

The last time any team won Game Seven of a postseason series after losing Game Six was in the historic 1975 World Series, when the Cincinnati Reds overcame a game-winning homer by Carlton Fisk in Game Six to defeat the Boston Red Sox in the final game.

"They are getting ready to have the experience of a lifetime if you're in professional sports," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "You play a Game Seven in a best-of-seven, probably baseball and basketball is where you have it. It's an experience you'll never forget.

"It will be one of the most enjoyable things, especially if you do it right as far as getting ready and doing the best that you can. You'll never forget it."

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