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STL@NYM: Pagan lifts a two-run double to right field

It could just be one game, or it could be the start of something big. The Mets got All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes back in the lineup Tuesday and pulled back to .500 with a victory over the Cardinals, and they'll try to push their way to a winning record with R.A. Dickey matched against Kyle McClellan on Wednesday.

New York is 2-3 since the All-Star break, but it's managed a 13-10 record in its last 23 games. Reyes, who returned from a two-week stint on the disabled list due to a strained left hamstring, moved right back into the leadoff slot Tuesday, and center fielder Angel Pagan became the team's No. 5 hitter.

Reyes scored in the victory -- and Pagan drove in two runs -- and the Mets could begin to visualize their lineup returning to form. Pagan batted .192 with a .246 on-base percentage in 12 games as the leadoff man without Reyes, but he'll move back to a run-producing slot with the shortstop back.

"I'm always trying to bring the same approach, trying to do the best I can for the team," said Pagan of his lineup slot. "Obviously in the past, I've had better success with men in scoring position, so that puts me in a situation where I'm probably going to have people in scoring position and probably get it done."

The Cardinals, meanwhile, find themselves right in the thick of a three-way race for the National League Central crown, and they'll welcome McClellan back from an extended absence on Wednesday. McClellan will be throwing on 12 days' rest, a tactic the Cardinals used to try to keep him healthy.

The right-hander missed time earlier in the season due to a sore left hip, but St. Louis arranged the rotation so he could get an extra long rest after the All-Star break. McClellan, who lasted started on July 7, has thrown two bullpen sessions recently and said he should be fine to take the ball Wednesday.

"I'm always going to try to find the positive. You can look at [the down time] in a negative way as well, but for me, it's a rest," he said. "It's almost like having another DL stint. I got 12 days."

The Mets have won four of Dickey's last five starts, and he's completed at least seven innings in seven of his last nine outings. The veteran knuckleballler has seen his ERA dip by almost a full run in his last 10 starts -- from 4.50 to 3.70 -- but he's gone 2-3 with five no-decisions in that span.

Cardinals: Berkman crushing ball
Lance Berkman homered for the second straight game on Tuesday, continuing a season that has seen him terrorize the league's pitching staffs. Eight of Berkman's last 12 hits have gone for home runs, and he currently ranks second in the Major Leagues -- after Toronto's Jose Bautista -- with 26 homers.

Mets: Another star returns to fold
Reyes wasn't the only returnee in the lineup Tuesday, as the Mets also welcomed Carlos Beltran back into the fold. New York is still hoping to get left fielder Jason Bay on track, and manager Terry Collins said that he liked seeing his players greet the veteran in the dugout after a sacrifice fly late in Monday's loss.

"It's baseball ritual when someone does something that produces a run, you pat him on the back," he said. "But this guy's such a big part of the clubhouse. Guys like him so much [and] they want him to succeed so much that they're trying to keep his spirits up and they want him to know that they're behind him. The only reason -- and I truly believe this -- why we have kept this ship afloat is because these guys care for each other. I don't care who it is. I don't care if it's the biggest star to the rawest rookie, these guys care about each other. He knows he's got the support there, and this is just another way for the guys to show, 'Hey we've got your back.'"

Worth noting
• The Mets are 20-17 at home after starting the season with a 1-8 skid at Citi Field.

• The Mets are 15-18 in the first game of a series, and they're 5-12 in series openers at home.

• The Cardinals will visit Pittsburgh -- their first road series against the Pirates this season -- after wrapping up against the Mets. Comments