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NEW YORK -- Mike Matheny tried all sorts of things to snap the Cardinals out of their hitting funk.
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Not a whole lot worked, though. Not until Allen Craig provided what any struggling team will always take -- a big home run.
Craig hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth inning and the Cardinals found a bit of absent pop, beating the New York Mets 5-4 Monday and stopping their season-worst losing streak at five.
The Cardinals have never been swept in a four-game series in New York. The World Series champions had been outscored 19-1 by the Mets and no-hit by Johan Santana before salvaging the finale at Citi Field.
"Doesn't take much. Just a win," Matheny said. "That was much needed, and nobody needed it more than we did. It will change the atmosphere around here. You never know which win will be the one that helps you take off."
St. Louis seemed headed for another rough day at the plate when five of its first seven batters struck out. All told, the Cardinals fanned 41 times in the series.
"Even early on, we started out with a few strikeouts. It's just one of those periods you go through," Matheny said. "You just got to keep working, keep fighting. You've got to trust yourself and, fortunately, we got a couple of big hits when we needed them and that's the thing we were missing."
After playing the Mets on Sunday night, Matheny permitted his players to report late on a rainy morning, with most of them getting to the ballpark about two hours before game time.
"I knew it was a big hit," Craig said. "We're too talented to stay in a slump too long."
"I don't know if I would say we were antsy," he said. "We have a really good offensive team, but we're not going to go out there and hit every game."
The Mets cut the deficit in the bottom half when Andres Torres hit a long sacrifice fly, but closer Jason Motte retired David Wright on an inning-ending liner to right field with a runner at third base.
Motte finished for his ninth save in 12 chances. Marc Rzepczynski (1-3) wound up with the win despite allowing Hairston's eighth career pinch-hit homer in the seventh, a two-run shot with two outs that made it 3-all.
Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse pitched six sharp innings and allowed only two hits, including Duda's solo homer halfway up the second deck in the fourth.
Dillon Gee limited the Cardinals to Craig's RBI single before his throwing error in the seventh broke a tie game.
"Obviously, it wasn't a no-hitter or another shutout," Gee said. "But I pitched well."
With runners at the corners, no outs and the score 1-all, Gee gloved Daniel Descalso's comebacker and looked Craig back to third. Gee then tried to start a double play, but bounced his throw into center field and twisted his head in disgust. The go-ahead run scored on the error, and Rafael Furcal's RBI grounder made it 3-1.
The Cardinals took their first lead of the series in the fourth. Holliday led off with a double, moved up on a groundout and scored when Craig bounced a single through the partly pulled-in infield.
|Allen Craig's two-run HR in the eighth inning breaks a tie game and puts the Cards past the Mets to avoid a four-game sweep. (US Presswire)|
|Players of the Game|
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|St. Louis Cardinals|
|Rafael Furcal, SS||5||0||1||1||0||1||2||.316|
|Carlos Beltran, RF||5||0||0||0||0||2||4||.277|
|Matt Holliday, LF||4||2||2||0||0||0||0||.276|
|Yadier Molina, C||4||0||0||0||0||2||2||.328|
|Allen Craig, 1B||3||2||2||3||1||1||0||.355|
|David Freese, 3B||4||1||2||0||0||1||1||.263|
|Jason Motte, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Daniel Descalso, 2B-3B||3||0||0||0||1||2||1||.235|
|Adron Chambers, CF||3||0||1||0||1||0||1||.294|
|Kyle Lohse, P||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.045|
|a- Matt Adams, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||3||.277|
|Marc Rzepczynski, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Eduardo Sanchez, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Tyler Greene, 2B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.212|
|a-struck out for Lohse in the 7th|
|2B - Matt Holliday (9, Gee)|
|HR - Allen Craig (6, Rauch)|
|SH - Tyler Greene (1)|
|RBI - Rafael Furcal (24), Allen Craig 3 (22)|
|SB - Rafael Furcal (9, 2nd base off Gee/Nickeas), Daniel Descalso (2, 2nd base off Gee/Nickeas)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|Marc Rzepczynski (BS,4; W,1-3)||1||2||2||2||0||1||1||5.06|
|Eduardo Sanchez (H,1)||0.2||2||1||1||0||0||0||3.24|
|Jason Motte (S,9)||1.1||0||0||0||0||2||0||3.09|
|Pitches-Strikes - Kyle Lohse 76-48, Marc Rzepczynski 16-11, Eduardo Sanchez 10-5, Jason Motte 23-17|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Kyle Lohse 8-7, Marc Rzepczynski 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Kyle Lohse 20, Marc Rzepczynski 5, Eduardo Sanchez 4, Jason Motte 4|
|New York Mets|
|Kirk Nieuwenhuis, LF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.299|
|Andres Torres, CF||3||0||0||1||0||0||0||.225|
|David Wright, 3B||4||1||1||0||0||0||1||.361|
|Lucas Duda, RF||4||1||1||1||0||0||0||.258|
|Daniel Murphy, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.301|
|Ike Davis, 1B||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||.164|
|a- Scott Hairston, PH||1||1||1||2||0||0||0||.278|
|Jon Rauch, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Tim Byrdak, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Bobby Parnell, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Jordany Valdespin, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.087|
|Omar Quintanilla, SS||3||0||1||0||0||2||0||.316|
|Mike Nickeas, C||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.143|
|c- Josh Thole, PH-C||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||.290|
|Dillon Gee, P||2||0||0||0||0||1||1||.059|
|Vinny Rottino, 1B||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.190|
|a-homered for Davis in the 7th|
|b-struck out for Parnell in the 9th|
|c-singled for Nickeas in the 8th|
|2B - Kirk Nieuwenhuis (8, Sanchez), Omar Quintanilla (3, Lohse)|
|HR - Lucas Duda (9, Lohse), Scott Hairston (7, Rzepczynski)|
|SF - Andres Torres (1)|
|RBI - Andres Torres (15), Lucas Duda (32), Scott Hairston 2 (23)|
|2-OUT RBI - Lucas Duda (16), Scott Hairston 2 (9)|
|Team LOB - 2|
|DP - Gee-Murphy-Davis|
|E - Dillon Gee (2, Throwing)|
|New York Mets|
|Jon Rauch (L,3-5)||0.2||2||2||2||0||1||1||4.76|
|Pitches-Strikes - Dillon Gee 106-67, Jon Rauch 17-10, Tim Byrdak 12-7, Bobby Parnell 7-5|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Dillon Gee 8-5, Bobby Parnell 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Dillon Gee 29, Jon Rauch 4, Tim Byrdak 2, Bobby Parnell 3|
|Attendance - 25830|
|Game Time - 2:34|
|Temperature - 59|
|Umpires - Home - Adrian Johnson, First Base - Gary Cederstrom, Second Base - Lance Barksdale, Third Base - Field Culbreth|