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Offensive explosion helps Mets even NLCS 2-2

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Carlos Beltran sent the ball soaring over the
wall.

So did David Wright. And Carlos Delgado. And then Beltran did it
a second time.

With four home runs, the Mets tied the NL Championship Series,
making sure it will end back home in New York.

"It's all even now. It's, 'Who wants it more?'" Wright said
after the Mets battered the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen in a 12-5
victory Sunday night that knotted up the series at two games
apiece.

Now that Delgado's in the postseason, he's starting to own it.
He put New York ahead for good at 5-2 with a three-run homer in the
fifth, then busted open the game with a two-run double in a six-run
sixth.

Beltran boosted his NLCS home-run total to seven in 11 games,
Wright broke an 0-for-13 slump with his homer and Jose Valentin
added a three-run double in the sixth as New York went ahead 11-3.

"You create your own momentum," Delgado said. "You just have
to approach every game like it's the last game you're going to
play."

After being held scoreless for 14 innings, the Mets came to life
in the third and set a team record for runs and homers in a
postseason game. It was more than enough offense to back
Oliver Perez, who was forced into the rotation because of injuries to
Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez.

New York had 14 hits, one night after getting just three.

"When you have good hitters like we do, you're not going to
hold us down too often," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.

But before the series returns to Shea Stadium, Tom Glavine
(15-7) is to start for the Mets on Monday night, with Jeff Weaver
(5-4) pitching for the Cardinals in a matchup of Game 1 starters.
Both would be pitching on three days' rest, though rain is
possible.

Glavine has pitched 13 scoreless innings in the postseason.

"He knows what it takes, and we're just going to come out
tomorrow and play good ball again," Delgado said confidently.

Beltran went 3-for-3 with two walks and is hitting .333 in the
NLCS. Delgado is hitting .414 (12-for-29) with four homers and 11
RBI in the postseason, batting .400 against the Cardinals with
three homers and nine RBI.

"I played 12-and-a-half years and never sniffed the playoffs,"
he said. "I'm enjoying these playoffs. It's a blast. But I guess
it's going to be that much sweeter when you win it."

Perez, acquired July 31 from Pittsburgh along with Roberto Hernandez in the Xavier Nady deal, gave up solo homers to David Eckstein,
Jim Edmonds and Yadier Molina. He never retired the side
in order but lasted 5 2/3 innings.

"I did my job, kept us in the game, and that's what's most
important," Perez said.

Only the second pitcher to start a postseason game in a year he
finished the regular season 10 games under .500 (3-13), Perez had
been 0-7 on the road this year.

"We really needed that," Delgado said. "I think he did a
fantastic job."

Cardinals rookie Anthony Reyes, who like Perez was pitching for
the first time since Oct. 1, allowed runners in all four of his
innings, walked four and threw 86 pitches. But he gave up his only
runs on the third-inning homers by Beltran and Wright, which put
the Mets ahead 2-1.

"I kept the team in the game and tried to do the best I could
with every pitch, but I threw too many pitches and I got forced out
of there early," Reyes said.

Relievers Brad Thompson and Josh Hancock were lit up for eight
runs, with the pair combining to get just one out.

"They are kicking themselves and beating themselves up in the
clubhouse," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Delgado tied the Mets record for RBI in a postseason series,
set by Gary Carter in the World Series, and set a team record with
six extra-base hits. All of his postseason homers have to the
opposite field.

"Very, very rare, very unique to see a hitter like him who can
turn on you and pull the ball, and then can just stay out there and
just serve the ball the other way," Randolph said.

Beltran kept up his role as a Cardinal-killer: He batted .417
against St. Louis with four homers in the 2004 NLCS as a member of
the Houston Astros. During the regular season, the Mets were 9-1
when Delgado and Beltran homered in the same game.

Thousands of red-clad Cardinals fans waving white towels filled
Busch Stadium on a cool night, hoping their team would move within
one win of a World Series date with the Tigers. Detroit beat the
Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1968 Series.

Molina put St. Louis on top in the second with an RBI single
and, after the homers by Beltran and Wright, Juan Encarnacion hit a
tying triple in the bottom half.

La Russa sent in a pinch hitter for Reyes in the fourth, and
Thompson entered in the fifth. Paul Lo Duca reached when second
baseman Ronnie Belliard misplayed his leadoff grounder for an
error, Beltran singled and Delgado stayed with an outside 2-0 pitch
a few rows into the left-field seats.

"Hopefully this is a one-day thing for us," Thompson said.

Eckstein, who homered just twice in the regular season,
connected leading off the bottom half to pull the Cardinals to 5-3.
But the Mets loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth against
Hancock, and La Russa left him in to face Delgado.

Delgado lofted a fly ball to deep left that Scott Spiezio didn't
get a good jump on, and the ball bounced over the fence on a hop
for a double. A walk to Wright reloaded the bases, Tyler Johnson
relieved, and Shawn Green singled to make it 8-3. Valentin then
cleared the bases with a double down the left-field line, sending
many fans streaming up the aisles.

"It happened quick," Hancock said. "I just didn't do my job.
We make mistakes, they hit them."

Perez left after allowing homers to Edmonds and Molina in the
bottom half, and Beltran connected for his second solo homer in the
seventh, a drive off former-Met Braden Looper.

"One swing of the bat," Wright said, "can get us going."

Game Notes
New York beat Atlanta 11-6 in Game 2 of the 1969 NLCS. ...
Delgado tied the Mets' record for home runs in an NLCS, set by
Rusty Staub in 1973, and his five RBIs tied the team postseason
record for a game, set by Staub in Game 4 of the 1973 World Series
and matched by Edgardo Alfonzo in the 1999 division series opener.
... The seven combined homers set an LCS record.