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Leave it to Weaver: Cardinals on brink of World Series

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Albert Pujols actually had a few nice things to
say about Tom Glavine this time.

And why not? A big swing can put any slugger in a better mood,
especially when his team is one win from the World Series.

Pujols' rally-starting homer and another playoff gem by a
rejuvenated Jeff Weaver sent the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-2
victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night -- and a 3-2 lead in
the NL Championship Series.

Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter can close it out Wednesday night
in Game 6 at Shea Stadium, which would give St. Louis its second
pennant in three years and a date with the Detroit Tigers in the
World Series.

After saying Glavine "wasn't good at all" in the opener even
though he pitched seven shutout innings, Pujols helped St. Louis
finally touch up the soft-tossing lefty with a home run in the
fourth.

"He doesn't give in too much," Pujols said. "I'm just glad it
went out of the park."

The Cardinals also got timely hits from Preston Wilson and
Ronnie Belliard, and an insurance homer by pinch-hitter
Chris Duncan. With the red-clad crowd of 46,496 twirling white towels,
St. Louis' young bullpen held on in the late innings after getting
roughed up during New York's 12-5 victory in Game 4.

Now, the Mets must count on rookie right-hander John Maine on
Wednesday as they try to force a Game 7 at home.

"We've got to come out swinging," David Wright said. "We're
backed into a corner. We're going to go out there and play relaxed,
play loose tomorrow. Try to come out swinging and break their
hearts."

The second rainout of the series Monday night gave Glavine and
Weaver a chance to pitch on regular rest instead of only a
three-day break. And for the second time in the series, the clubs
will travel without a day off.

Making his 35th postseason start, the most in major league
history, Glavine got only 12 outs.

"They hit my bad pitches. I made a few mistakes tonight and
didn't get away with them," he said. "I didn't feel like they
made all that many adjustments. I made a mistake to Albert, he hit
it. I made a mistake on Preston and he hit it for a double. All the
other ones were kind of bloopers and groundballs that went through
holes."

Weaver, on the other hand, earned his second impressive playoff
victory.

"I think one advantage of playing a team in a long series like
this is the opportunity to pitch twice. You get a pretty good read
off of their approach last time," Weaver said. "So I knew what
they had hit before. And more than anything, just try to get ahead
of them."

Pujols' homer put St. Louis on the scoreboard and snapped
Glavine's 22-inning scoreless streak that dated to his final
regular-season start at Washington.

"I think we made him work," Pujols said. "We just went out
there and performed. We hit the ball the other way and he obviously
left a couple of balls up. We took advantage."

The 40-year-old Glavine threw four-hit ball in Game 1, beating
Weaver 2-0 on Carlos Beltran's two-run homer.

But Weaver got the best of this matchup. Cast off by the
Los Angeles Angels this summer to make roster room for little brother
Jered, the St. Louis right-hander kept Beltran and Carlos Delgado
in check, yielding only two runs and six hits in six strong
innings.

"I don't even remember the first half of the season," Weaver
said. "Just continued to believe in myself that eventually things
would turn around."

The Mets put runners at second and third with one out in the
eighth, but Randy Flores retired Shawn Green on a shallow fly and
rookie Adam Wainwright struck out Jose Valentin looking to preserve
a two-run lead. Wainwright struck out Jose Reyes to end the game
for his second save of the postseason.

"He's got so much composure in the toughest situations, so
we've gotten a tremendous lift from those guys," St. Louis manager
Tony La Russa said.

In this postseason, Cardinals relievers have held opponents to
0-for-31 with two outs and runners in scoring position.

"We didn't have too many opportunities," Mets manager Willie
Randolph said. "They did pitch well. The bullpen did a great
job."

Weaver is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in three playoff starts. He tossed
five innings of two-hit ball to beat San Diego 2-0 in Game 2 of the
first round.

"The biggest key to our win was the way he pitched," La Russa
said. "The more you think about what he did, the more credit he
deserves.

"By him being able to finish the sixth it really set up the
last three innings for our bullpen."

Weaver walked Delgado in the fourth, and Green's one-out double
kicked up chalk on the right-field line. Valentin hit the next
pitch just over a leaping Pujols at first base for a two-run double
that put New York ahead.

But while the Mets have scored in 10 innings during the series,
seven times St. Louis has responded with at least one run in its
next at-bat.

Sure enough, Glavine couldn't hold the lead. Pujols pulled a 2-2
pitch barely over the left-field fence in the fourth, his first
home run since Game 1 against the Padres and his 12th overall in
the postseason.

"Albert just got enough of it, and you get something going,"
La Russa said. "We were sitting on zero and that got us going and
really perked us up."

With two outs, Scott Rolen walked, Jim Edmonds singled and
Belliard bounced a tying single through the right side as Delgado
broke for first base instead of toward the ball.

Glavine retired Weaver with the bases loaded to end the inning,
but the Cardinals chased him in the fifth and took a 3-2 lead.

Glavine threw only 40 of his 80 pitches for strikes, allowing
three runs and seven hits in four-plus innings and failing to tie
former Atlanta teammate John Smoltz for the most wins in postseason
history at 15.

"He had the one tough inning obviously in the fourth, but
outside of that I thought he pitched pretty well," Randolph said.

Left-hander Pedro Feliciano escaped a bases-loaded jam in the
fifth, keeping the score 3-2. But La Russa sent the left-handed
hitting Duncan up for Weaver in the sixth against Feliciano, and
Duncan drove a 3-2 delivery down the right-field line to make it
4-2.

"Once I got him to 3-2, I knew in a close ballgame like that he
couldn't walk me," said Duncan, the son of Cardinals pitching
coach Dave Duncan. "He happened to leave a breaking ball up."

Game notes
Eckstein appeared to hurt himself on a diving stop in the first. He was checked by La Russa and a trainer, but stayed in the
game. ... Ex-Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog, who led the team to
its last World Series title in 1982, threw out the first pitch.