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Mets vie for split with Cardinals

NEW YORK -- On Wednesday afternoon, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said he hoped his team was ready to return to playing Cardinals-style baseball.

A few hours later, a 7-3 victory by the Mets over the Cardinals left New York manager Terry Collins speaking optimistically about the possibility of his squad mounting a long-overdue run.

The truth is both teams are running out of time entering the finale of a four-game series on Thursday at Citi Field. The Mets' Seth Lugo (4-2, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to oppose the Cardinals' Lance Lynn (8-6, 3.40) in a matinee matchup of right-handers.

The Mets will be going for a split of the series after ace right-hander Jacob deGrom earned his seventh straight win by allowing one run over 6 2/3 innings Wednesday.

Afterward, Collins said he hoped deGrom's performance could spark the Mets (42-50), who are 11 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the race for the National League's second wild card and 14 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals in the NL East.

"We don't know when the streak's going to hit, when we're going to get going," Collins said. "Maybe it starts tonight. We got some big hits, we got a well-pitched game. Maybe we'll break out (Thursday) and the next five days we pitch very good."

The Cardinals (46-48) failed in a bid to move to .500 for the first time since June 2. St. Louis is 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and eight games behind the Diamondbacks.

"Kind of been our aim, not necessarily to get to .500 (but) get to what looks like Cardinals baseball," Matheny said Wednesday afternoon. "And there's a level of expectations that should go along with that."

The Cardinals will need a better performance out of Lynn and their defense than they got Wednesday, when Mike Leake gave up seven runs -- four earned -- while lasting just two innings. It was the third-shortest of his 221 major league starts. Leake likely would have gotten out of a four-run second inning unscathed if third baseman Jedd Gyorko had not thrown the ball away on a potential inning-ending double play.

Lynn enters Thursday on a 13 1/3-inning scoreless streak. He won his second straight start last Saturday after scattering eight hits over 6 1/3 innings in the Cardinals' 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his previous outing, he tossed seven scoreless innings against the Mets in a 6-0 win at Busch Stadium on July 9.

Lugo appeared in relief that day, allowing one run in three innings.

Lugo earned a victory Saturday, when he gave up three runs over 6 2/3 innings as the Mets beat the Colorado Rockies 9-3. At the plate, Lugo helped his own cause by hitting his first career homer, a solo shot in the third inning.

Lynn is 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA in eight career appearances (six starts) against the Mets. Lugo is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two career appearances (one start) against the Cardinals.

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