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STL@PHI: Garcia hurls seven frames of one-run ball

While Tony La Russa said the Mets have the Cardinals' full attention during their three-game series, its hard to imagine his team not being somewhat interested in the goings-on of the Braves.

That's because with only eight games left, St. Louis sits 2 1/2 games back of Atlanta in the National League Wild Card race. Both teams won on Tuesday.

"We're three series away from the end of the season, and we're in contention," La Russa said. "This is the real fun for guys. The guys are having a real good time because they are playing well and they are in the middle of it.

"We need to put wins together more than the other club. So, it's just win the next game you play. It's that simple. Try to win the next game."

They'll try and do just that Wednesday with Jaime Garcia (12-7, 3.59 ERA) on the hill at Busch Stadium. The left-hander tossed seven innings and allowed one earned run on five hits to the Phillies in his previous start.

Garcia is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in September, with 14 strikeouts and only three walks.

He'll have to go up against a much-improved Mets lineup -- not only with shortstop Jose Reyes back, but with catcher Josh Thole swinging a hot bat.

Picking it up at the plate following a rough stretch of games, Thole has begun catching five to six games a week as Ronny Paulino recovers from a broken toe.

Thole is 10-for-31 in his past 10 games with a double and four RBIs.

"After watching him now at this level, I think Josh Thole, in the future, is going to show you more power. I know right now he's a pretty good hitter, but he's a singles hitter. I think you're going to see more power out of Josh Thole," said manager Terry Collins. "There are certain times when he wants to pull a ball and does, and he hits it hard. With some experience and time, I think he's going to learn how to backspin some balls and I think you'll see him drive the ball more."

Mets: Bay out with illness
• The latest victim to the virus going around the Mets' clubhouse, Jason Bay sat out Tuesday's series opener.

Bay planned to see a doctor sometime Tuesday to get a more accurate diagnosis of his sickness.

"He's concerned about it being something he's going to need some medication for," said Collins.

• Chris Schwinden will make his third Major League start Wednesday after going 8-8 with a 3.87 ERA this season for Triple-A Buffalo.

Searching for his first win, the right-hander went five innings and surrendered two runs on five hits to the Nationals in his previous start. He's 0-2 on the season with a 5.40 ERA.

Cardinals: Holliday planning for weekend return
• While his return date to the Cardinals is still up in the air, Matt Holliday could return to the team as early as this coming weekend after battling an injured right hand.

"I think the easiest way to think about him right now is it is sort of a day-to-day progression," said general manager John Mozeliak. "So he's been cleared to swing a bat off a tee, and then tomorrow hopefully he can do a little more, and so on. So I think as far as having him available in the next couple of days, I think that is unlikely, but we're hopeful for the weekend."

Holliday developed inflammation of a tendon in his right middle finger during a game in Pittsburgh last Tuesday. He felt the pain in his hand while in the on-deck circle late in a 6-4 victory.

Worth noting
• The Mets lead the National League and rank third in the Majors with 543 walks.

• The Cardinals will have their team photo day on Wednesday.

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