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Cardinals target .500, look to take series from Mets

NEW YORK -- The St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets are both near "round number" statistical achievements neither team really wanted to be associated with by July 19.

But at least the Cardinals can measure some progress by looking at their record.

The Cardinals will look to move to .500 for the first time in more than six weeks Wednesday night when they face the Mets in the third contest of a four-game series at Citi Field.

St. Louis' Mike Leake (6-7, 3.14 ERA) is scheduled to oppose the Mets' Jacob deGrom (10-3, 3.48) in a battle of right-handers. The Cardinals won the first two game of the series, including Tuesday night, when Michael Wacha threw the first complete game of his professional career in a 5-0 victory.

The Cardinals (46-47) moved within one game of .500 for the first time since June 3.

"I didn't even know that," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said with a grin, "but it sounds good. We're going to soak in this one for a little bit. That was a good win."

On the other hand, the Mets (41-50) will try to avoid falling 10 games below .500 for the first time since June 22 and the second time this season. New York will need to play better defense than it did Tuesday, when three errors led to three unearned runs for the Cardinals.

"Big league teams, you can't give them extra outs," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "They capitalized on them, and with Wacha pitching like he did tonight -- a pretty dominant performance -- you let him have some extra runs, they're going to beat you."

Collins can take solace Wednesday in knowing deGrom is capable of going the distance just as Wacha did Tuesday night. DeGrom won his sixth consecutive start Friday, when he allowed two runs (one earned) over eight innings as the Mets beat the Colorado Rockies 14-2. He struck out 11 and walked one.

DeGrom has lasted at least seven innings in each of his past six wins, a stretch that began with a complete game against the Chicago Cubs on June 12. He has a 1.53 ERA during the winning streak and has allowed 27 hits and nine walks while striking out 47 over 47 innings.

Leake will look to snap out of a slump Wednesday night. He didn't factor into the decision Friday after allowing two runs and issuing a season-high five walks over five innings as the Cardinals fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2.

In his past nine starts dating back to May 29, Leake is 1-5 with a 4.56 ERA. Despite the rough stretch, Leake still ranks sixth in the National League in ERA.

DeGrom is 2-2 with a 5.63 ERA in four career starts against the Cardinals. Leake is 2/3 with a 2.74 ERA in seven career starts against the Mets.

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