ST. LOUIS (AP) — New York Mets reliever Pedro Beato admits he is just trying to cross the finish line.
He may not make it.
Beato entered Wednesday night's game against the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh inning on five days' rest. But he admitted his arm stilll was not 100 percent, and David Freese made him pay with a three-run homer with two outs in the seventh inning that lifted the Cardinals to a 6-5 win.
After a strong first half, the toll of pitching almost constantly for two years may have caught up to Beato, who also pitches in winter ball.
"It's just tired," Beato said of his right arm. "It's been a long season and I've been going about two years straight pitching and stuff. That's the first time I did that and it's caught up with me. I'm trying not to throw in the towel early."
Mets manager Terry Collins said he was concerned when Beato's first pitch to Freese was clocked at 89 mph. Collins said Beato has to go back to throwing hard stuff.
"He's had a wonderful year for a rookie and he had a tremendous first half," Collins said. "It's just that he's gotten away from what he does well and that's throw the ball hard. He's in a mode where he's trying to make pitches and trying to sink it.
"His ball had plenty of movement when he threw it 95 (mph). When he throws it 89, he's just another sinker baller."
That was not good enough against Freese and the Cardinals, who have won four straight and 12 of 14 to move within 1½ games of Atlanta in the NL wild-card race.
St. Louis, a season-high 17 games over .500 (86-69), has seven games left and will go for a sweep of the Mets on Thursday.
"This is certainly what you want to see," Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman said. "We haven't done anything yet. We've made it awful close and we have a week left basically to play. But certainly, this is the time of year to be playing well."
Freese, who also had a two-run triple, said he was not looking to take Beato deep. His 389-foot drive just cleared the wall in right.
"I'm never trying to hit home runs," Freese said. "I was just trying to get Albert (Pujols) in. That's what I was worried about."
The Mets fell to 73-82, ensuring the third straight losing season for the big-spending ballclub that has been plagued by injuries and off-field financial woes this year.
Jaime Garcia (13-7), making his 30th start, pitched around four unearned runs in 7 2-3 innings. He gave up six hits and struck out five.
Jason Motte got four outs for his eighth save in 12 opportunities but allowed a solo home run to Willie Harris in the ninth.
Pujols went 2 for 4 to up his average to .305. Pujols has reached base safely in 37 straight games. He is hitting .500 during his six-game hitting streak (13 for 26).
Allen Craig drove in the Cardinals' other run with an RBI single.
Mets shortstop Jose Reyes went 1 for 4, dropping his average to .330 and into a tie with Milwaukee's Ryan Braun for the league lead.
The Mets led 4-3 after six innings and the Cardinals were going quietly in the seventh when Pujols singled to center off reliever Miguel Batista with two outs.
Collins brought in left-hander Daniel Herrera (0-1) to make Berkman bat right-handed, but Berkman foiled the strategy by singling to left.
At that point, Collins went to Beato and Freese tagged him for his opposite-field homer to right to give the Cardinals a 6-4 lead. The homer was the 10th for Freese, who has 54 RBIs.
With a 3-0 lead, Garcia struck out the first two batters to begin the third. But Mets starter Chris Schwinden kept the inning alive with a single and Reyes followed with a double down the left-field line. Both scored when Angel Pagan's grounder went under shortstop Rafael Furcal's glove for an error to make it 3-2.
David Wright followed with a single in the hole. Pinch-hitter Josh Satin gave the Mets a 4-3 lead with a double.
Schwinden retired the first two batters he faced to begin the game, but then gave up a double to Pujols. He intentionally walked Berkman, and Freese made him pay for it with a triple.
NOTES: New York's Chris Capuano (11-12) will face the Cardinals' Jake Westbrook (12-8) in the series finale Thursday. ... Satin pinch-hit for Lucas Duda, who left the game with dizziness after running into the wall trying to catch Freese's triple. ... Garcia's five strikeouts gave him 151 for the season. He is the 17th Cardinals' left-hander to get 150 in a season and the first since Rick Ankiel fanned 194 in 2000. ... Schumaker's second-inning double snapped an 0-for-15 skid.