ST. LOUIS -- Until his final swing, Larry Walker was having a miserable night.
Walker committed his first error of the season in right field and was hitless with a pair of strikeouts before hitting a tiebreaking home run off the right-field scoreboard off Jae Seo with two outs in the eighth inning in the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 victory over the New York Mets on Friday night.
"It was an ugly night, ugly swings," Walker said. "Tonight, like every night, was a big challenge for me. Fortunately, if he threw 100 pitches, that was the worst pitch he threw all night, and fortunately it was to me."
Jason Marquis threw eight strong innings, while Albert Pujols and Hector Luna each drove in a run for the defending NL champions, who reduced their magic number for clinching the Central division to eight. With their second straight victory over the slumping Mets, they knocked a team that is fading badly in the wild-card race a game below .500.
David Wright had an RBI single and Cliff Floyd had two hits for the Mets, who have lost five in a row and 11 of 13 to fall to 70-71. They remained 5½ games behind Houston in the wild-card standings.
Of the Mets' last eight losses, seven have been by two or fewer runs. The exception was a 5-0 defeat to the Cardinals and 21-game winner Chris Carpenter on Thursday.
"Sometimes these are a little tougher to deal with because you always look back and feel like you could have done a few extra things to get it done," manager Willie Randolph said. "We had a couple of opportunities to pick up some late runs and we don't, and that always makes the margin for error real slim, and it's bit us in the butt again."
Walker's 13th homer, estimated at 457 feet, is the longest hit by the Cardinals at home this year. Walker has been battling a herniated disc in his neck much of the season and kicked the ground after taking a bad swing on the previous pitch before connecting on a 2-2 pitch from Seo (7-2).
He had been 0-for-9 before the homer.
"I was mad at the pitch before being called a strike, I was mad I swung at that, and then he hung me one," Walker said. "So, madness, madness, happiness, all in the matter of a minute. Stupid."
Marquis (12-13) allowed two runs -- one earned -- on eight hits in eight innings. He has won his last three starts, giving up only two earned runs in 26 innings, after losing seven straight decisions.
"My confidence is a little more than where it was, obviously, about two or three weeks ago," Marquis said. "But I'm still the same pitcher, I just made a few adjustments in my game, and that's getting ahead and expanding the plate from the middle on out."
Marquis went to the mound for the ninth and threw warmup deliveries before manager Tony La Russa pulled him after 102 pitches. Jason Isringhausen got the last three outs for his 35th save in 39 chances.
Seo, who had won seven straight decisions, lost for the first time since April 29. He allowed three runs and eight hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
"He just pitched well enough to win the game but there's no prize for the fact that he pitched well," Randolph said. "He just made the one bad pitch, but he'll pick up the ball again and he'll do well."
David Eckstein reached on an infield hit to start the bottom of the first, extending his hitting streak to 14 games, advanced to third on So Taguchi's double off the third-base bag and scored on Pujols' groundout.
The Mets took the lead on three straight singles and a throwing error by second baseman Luna, filling in for injured Mark Grudzielanek, in the sixth. Carlos Beltran singled and Floyd got an infield hit before Wright's bloop single tied the score. A second run scored on Mike Jacobs' double-play ball when Luna's relay to first was wild, allowing Floyd to score from second.
The Cardinals tied it in the seventh on Luna's RBI single, a high chopper up the middle that glanced off Seo's glove. The hit scored Abraham Nunez, who reached on an infield hit and went to second on Wright's wide throw from third that arrived near first just as the runner was also arriving, leaving Jacobs, the first baseman, on the ground after making contact with Nunez.
Nunez advanced to third on Yadier Molina's sacrifice before Luna's one-out hit.
RF Walker committed his first error of the season when he booted Victor Diaz's single in the second, allowing an extra base. ... Albert Pujols' cousin, Cardinals' sixth-round pick Wilfredo Pujols, was at the ballpark before the game. ... Paid attendance of 45,616 was the Cardinals' 40th sellout, and 15th in a row. ... Eckstein had two hits and is 26-for-64 (.406) during his hitting streak, which is one shy of his career best in 2002.