By MIKE FITZPATRICK AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK – Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado each hit St. Louis.
Harrison Bader homered, drove in three races and made a timely grip on the midfield fence to help Jon Lester improve to 9-1 against the Mets. Edmundo Sosa also went deep, and Goldschmidt had three hits as the streaking Cardinals completed a three-game sweep by winning their seventh in eight games.
St. Louis, who jumped into the playoffs on Tuesday night for the first time since May 30, moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Reds for the second NL wild card thanks to Cincinnati’s 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh in last place. The Cardinals began the day with a game ahead of San Diego, which started later in San Francisco.
Pete Alonso and Kevin Pillar are homers for the fading Mets, who look finished in the pennant race with 15 games left. They lost five games behind St. Louis, with three teams in between.
Tyler O’Neill laced a two-round double in a five-round first-round against rookie Tylor Megill (3-5), who got off to an outstanding start against the Yankees.
Sosa ran on a 0-2 course and scored all the way from first base on Bader’s bloop, a two-run single to center.
New York had a couple of chances to get back in it, but Bader and substitute right fielder Lars Nootbaar came through with clutch catches.
The fast Bader sprinted to the wall near the 408-foot sign and left his feet slightly to catch Javier Báez’s long drive with two on to finish the fifth.
Nootbaar, moments after entering the defense in a double breaker, Alonso robbed a three-run homer to keep it 8-4 in the seventh.
Lester (6-6) allowed three runs – two earned – and six hits in six innings. The 37-year-old left-back struck out seven and went nowhere, raising the record to 3-1 on nine outings for St. Louis since he traded July 30 from Washington.
Cardinals: RHP Jack Flaherty will likely throw around 20-25 lanes on Thursday in his first bullpen since straining his right shoulder in late August. St. Louis still hopes the front line starts (9-2, 3.08 ERA) can offer some relief at some point this year. – He is willing to do whatever is necessary. He just wants to pitch and contribute, says manager Mike Shildt. … RHP Dakota Hudson (Tommy John surgery) will aim to throw around 75 lanes in a rehabilitation start on Friday, his first for Triple-A Memphis after four with Double-A Springfield.
Mets: CF Brandon Nimmo is expected back from the injury list on Friday night against Philadelphia, two weeks after straining his right hamstring. … Noah Syndergaard threw about 15-20 courses to Nimmo and may have a new training class before he goes out on a rehab assignment in a smaller league. Syndergaard was a touch in the mid-90s (mph) with the fastball, said manager Luis Rojas, but did not want “full tilt”. The right-hander has slowed down his recovery from the Tommy John operation in March 2020 of a sore elbow and a positive COVID-19 test. He hopes to return to a relief role before the season ends. … Reserve infielder José Peraza was reinstated from the 10-day injury list. Peraza had been out since July 20 with a broken middle finger on her right hand. OF Albert Almora Jr. was selected for Triple-A Syracuse.
Cardinals: Off Thursday before we open a central series of three games at home Friday night against San Diego, a close wild-card competitor. RHP Miles Mikolas (0-2, 5.47 ERA) starts against his former team, and seeks his first victory in the big league in two years. St. Louis will also celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2011 World Cup this weekend.
Mets: RHP Taijuan Walker (7-9, 4.29 ERA) beats ex-Met Zack Wheeler (13-9, 2.86) and Phillies on Friday night at Citi Field.
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