Paul Goldschmidt homered and had two RBI for the surging Cardinals, who have won five of six. St. Louis is tied with San Diego at 74-69, a half-game behind Cincinnati for the second NL wild card.
“We’ve just got to keep winning series,” Wainwright said. “We keep winning series and we’re going to be in good shape the last couple days.”
New York is 3 1/2 games behind the Reds, with three teams in between.
“I understand we’re up against it right now,” said 41-year-old Mets starting pitcher Rich Hill. “We’ve got to win ballgames.”
The 40-year-old Wainwright, a thorn in the Mets’ side since he saved Game 7 of the 2006 NL Championship Series by freezing Carlos Beltran with a curveball to escape a bases-loaded jam, allowed four hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out four as he outpitched Hill.
Wainwright (16-7) had just one 1-2-3 inning but worked out of trouble by stranding seven runners — including the bases loaded in the first, when he struck out Jeff McNeil on three pitches.
“I like nostalgia and I felt like all the Mets fans wanted to see me in that bases-loaded situation and I felt like they wanted to see me throw two curveballs and a changeup,” Wainwright said with a grin. “So I gave the people what they want.”
Wainwright is 9-2 with a 2.02 ERA in his last 12 starts, going at least six innings every time.
“He’s pitched extremely well,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “He’s given us a lot of innings and the residual benefit to that is we’ve been able to not use our bullpen as much.”
Dylan Carlson laced an RBI double in the second and Goldschmidt delivered a run-scoring single in the third before homering leading off the fifth.
“That was good to see him in that moment, kind of flip the script and get back to the Alex that we know and love,” Wainwright said of Reyes, who lost his closer’s job after posting an 8.03 ERA in 14 games from Aug. 5 through Sept. 7.
Hill (6-7) allowed three runs and six hits in five innings.
“I put us in a pretty crappy position to get an opportunity to win the ballgame,” Hill said. “That falls on me. There’s just no excuses.”
BETTER WITH AGE
It was the first time starting pitchers 40 or older opposed one another since June 18, 2015, when 40-year-old R.A. Dickey started for Toronto against the Mets and 42-year-old Bartolo Colon.
“The game’s gone younger and 40’s quite a hallmark number to get to,” Shildt said.
Wainwright turned 40 on Aug. 30 while Hill, the oldest pitcher in the majors, turned 41 on March 11.
“He’s got a better fastball than me and potentially a better breaking ball,” Wainwright said. “He’s impressive. He got started later. He’s kind of figured it out in the last seven or eight years.”
Both pitchers displayed their versatile arsenals, which included fastballs in the high 80s (mph) and plenty of curveballs clocked in the low-to-mid-70s as well as at least two sliders by Hill clocked in the high 60s.
“You expect a chess match — executing pitches, lot of pitches with intent, lot of mix,” said Mets manager Luis Rojas, who is two days younger than Wainwright. “Two guys that have been around in the league for a while now for a reason.”
The matchup marked the first time Wainwright has opposed a pitcher older than him since Oct. 2, 2016, when he faced 39-year-old Ryan Vogelsong.
First base umpire Junior Valentine remained in the game after being hit on the right side of his face by a wild throw from Sosa at shortstop in the second inning.
Valentine, with blood on his face, stood up and spoke with his fellow umpires as well as a Mets trainer who applied a towel to the wound.
The crowd of 19,057 applauded as Valentine — a bruise already forming on his face — returned to his position. He exchanged grins and words with baserunner Kevin Pillar, who suffered facial fractures when he was hit square in the nose by a fastball in May, before Wainwright’s next pitch.
“Junior is doing well. He’s been checked out and has no broken bones. He was incredibly alert from the get-go. The blood seemed to stop fairly quickly, thankfully, and he was adamant that he was fine,” crew chief Jerry Meals said in a postgame statement.
Cardinals: RHP Dakota Hudson (Tommy John surgery) allowed one run in five innings for Double-A Springfield on Sunday night. It was the fourth rehab start for Hudson, who is expected to make another one Friday. … RHP Jack Flaherty (right shoulder) is scheduled to throw a bullpen in St. Louis on Thursday.
Mets: C Tomas Nido (left thumb) joined the Mets for batting practice after playing back-to-back games for Triple-A Syracuse and could be activated Tuesday. … OF Brandon Nimmo (right hamstring) took batting practice. … RHP Noah Syndergaard (Tommy John surgery) had a touch-and-feel bullpen and could throw batting practice this week — his first time facing hitters since his rehab progression was shut down when he tested positive for COVID-19.
Cardinals: RHP Jake Woodford (2-3, 4.38 ERA) gave up one run in four innings against the Dodgers last Thursday in his return to the rotation.
Mets: RHP Marcus Stroman (9-12, 2.87) is slated to make his major league-leading 31st start.
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