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Beltran's bat, Glavine's arm fuel Mets in NLCS opener

NEW YORK (AP) -- Sharp and deceptive as ever, Tom Glavine took
charge again, putting the pitching-depleted Mets on his 40-year-old
back and giving New York the lead in the National League Championship Series.

Carlos Beltran rocked Shea Stadium with a homer that crashed off
the scoreboard to back another gem by Glavine, and the Mets beat
the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 in Game 1 on Thursday night.

"Tommy was the key," New York manager Willie Randolph said.
"He's quiet, goes about his business and is one of the leaders on
our staff."

Making his 34th postseason start, Glavine shut down Albert Pujols and extended his scoreless streak to 13 innings in this
postseason.

Beltran, who wore out St. Louis in the NLCS with Houston two
years ago, hit a two-run shot off an otherwise impressive Jeff Weaver in the sixth. That was all the offense New York needed to
win its eighth straight game, dating to the regular season.

"It pains me," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "No way
to suggest that he's a losing pitcher. ... Jeff was outstanding. So
was Glavine. We hit too many balls in the air. I mean, it's tough
to win when you do that."

After rain postponed the opener Wednesday night, the Cardinals
bumped up ace Chris Carpenter, who will pitch on regular rest
Friday night in Game 2. Rookie right-hander John Maine will be on
the mound for the Mets.

Missing injured starters Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez,
the Mets are counting heavily on Glavine as they chase their first
World Series title in 20 years. The cagey left-hander has delivered
in a big way.

He threw six scoreless innings in Game 2 of the first round,
helping the Mets to a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who waited four seasons to
reach the playoffs with New York after doing so year after year in
Atlanta, was just as good against St. Louis.

After a Game 1 win, Mets pitcher Tom Glavine said he's having fun this postseason. He said he's ready to pitch in Game 5 if needed, and that was part of the reason he came out after seven innings. Tom Glavine 

Center fielder Carlos Beltran said the team knows Glavine will give them a solid performance every time he takes the mound: "That guy's been amazing." Carlos Beltran 

"I understand the importance of when I pitch now. But at the
same time, I'm trying my best to mentally play games with myself
and dismiss that," Glavine said. "I don't want to go out there
with any added pressure on myself."

Helped by two inning-ending double plays and a sprawling catch
by super sub Endy Chavez, Glavine yielded only four hits and two
walks. He struck out Pujols in the first, walked him in the fourth
and retired him on a liner to shortstop in the sixth.

"The first part I executed real well, which is facing him with
nobody on base," Glavine said. "He's the best hitter in baseball
right now. ... But when he's in the box and you have to face him,
you have to face him like you do every other hitter. You have to be
aggressive and attack him."

Guillermo Mota worked a hitless eighth to avoid facing Pujols
himself, instead passing the reigning NL MVP along to Billy Wagner.
But the Mets' closer got Pujols to line out to first, and Juan Encarnacion followed with a hard groundout.

Wagner then walked Scott Rolen, who is 1-for-14 this postseason,
and retired pinch-hitter Scott Spiezio on a popup to end it for his
third save of the playoffs.

Glavine matched Andy Pettitte for the most postseason starts in
major league history. Glavine also improved to 14-15 in the
postseason, tying Pettitte for the second-most wins behind former
Braves teammate John Smoltz (15).

"He made a lot of hitters tonight look foolish, kept them off
balance," Mets star David Wright said.

Weaver, cast off by the Los Angeles Angels in July, was nearly
as good. He cruised through 5 2/3 innings, blanking the Mets'
menacing lineup on one harmless single.

But Paul Lo Duca bounced a hit through the left side in the
sixth, and Beltran drove a 2-2 fastball an estimated 430 feet off
the giant scoreboard in right-center -- the ball clanging off Jose Valentin's No. 18 in New York's lineup.

"Every time you do something in October it means a lot,"
Beltran said. "Hitting the home run today, of course brings
memories."

It also woke up a curiously quiet crowd of 56,311 at Shea, which
was plenty noisy during two home games in the division series, and
left them chanting "Wea-ver! Wea-ver!"

"I'd been feeding him fastballs all day and he finally caught
up to one," Weaver said. "If you would have told me I'd have
allowed one hit through five innings, I would have liked our
chances. But it just didn't go our way."

The right-hander knows all about tough crowds in New York after
an unsuccessful stint with the Yankees from 2002-03, when he was
often booed lustily in the Bronx. Weaver, lifted in the sixth after
98 pitches, is scheduled to come back on only three days' rest in
Game 5 -- as is Glavine, who threw 89 pitches.

"There's no question I feel better about coming back on a small
pitch count like I had tonight as opposed to getting over 100,"
Glavine said.

The Cardinals have seen all too much of Beltran in October. He
batted .417 with four homers and five RBI for the Astros in the
2004 NLCS, a series St. Louis won in seven games.

Beltran also hit a game-ending homer against the Cardinals in
August.

"He's a big-game guy. He's shown what he can do in the
postseason," Randolph said. "He has a beautiful swing. He's a
very special individual. You don't see the ball jump off the bat
like that with many hitters."

La Russa has his team in the NLCS for the third straight season
and fifth time in seven years overall -- a run that began with a
loss to the wild-card Mets in 2000. But St. Louis is 1-3 in its
last four NLCS appearances and is still looking for its first World
Series championship since 1982.

The winner of Game 1 in the NLCS has reached the World Series 12
of the last 13 years. The 2005 Cardinals were the exception.

The Mets lost left fielder Cliff Floyd early when he aggravated
his injured Achilles' tendon while running out a foul fly in the
second. After feeling two pops in his foot, he will have an MRI on
Friday. He is day-to-day.

Floyd was replaced by Chavez, a defensive whiz, in the top of
the third. Chavez got a late break on Ronnie Belliard's
fifth-inning looper, but recovered in time to make a diving,
snow-cone grab.

Poor baserunning by Pujols cost the Cardinals in the fourth,
when he was doubled off first base by Beltran on Encarnacion's soft
fly to a center.

"Albert is an outstanding baserunner and I'm not
exaggerating," La Russa said. "That was the exception."

Game notes
It was Glavine's 16th LCS start, the most in major league
history. He lowered his career postseason ERA to 3.27. ... Ex-Mets
slugger Darryl Strawberry threw out the first pitch.