NEW YORK -- On July 6, 1999, Mets reliever Jason Isringhausen threw three scoreless innings against a team that no longer exists in a stadium that is now a parking lot to earn the first save of his career.
And while the Expos are now the Washington Nationals and the apple is all that remains of Shea Stadium, Isringhausen endures.
On Tuesday, he retired the Cardinals in order in the top of the ninth inning to earn save No. 294, his first with the Mets since those three innings 12 years ago, and his first anywhere since August 2008. The Mets beat the Cardinals, 4-2.
"I remember because Johnny [Franco] said, 'Hey, only 400 more to go,'" Isringhausen said of his first save. "And we're still working at it."
Tuesday's save was special for Isringhausen, who grew up an hour from St. Louis and played for the Cardinals from 2002-08. During that time, he racked up 217 saves and became the Cardinals' all-time leader in that category.
"I knew it was going to happen this way," said Isringhausen, who also said pitching against the Cardinals made him a little nervous. "As soon as they came into town, I knew I was going to have to pitch, probably all three games. That's just the way it goes. The baseball gods, that's just the way they do it."
Against his former teammates, Isringhausen got Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman to ground out before striking out David Freese swinging.
Berkman played for the Astros during all seven of Isringhausen's years with the Cardinals, and was far from thrilled to see his old National League Central foe on the mound.
"He owns me. I want to see him sitting in the bullpen. I don't want to see him on the mound," said Berkman, who is 3-for-21 against Isringhausen for his career. "But from just a [personal] standpoint, he's a good guy and it's always great to see when somebody's been hurt -- kind of down and out, if you will -- and then come back. Heck, he looked nasty to me tonight."
The save leaves Isringhausen six shy of the 300-save milestone, one of the reasons he decided to pitch this season after his comeback from a third Tommy John surgery in 2010 came to a halt at Cincinnati's Triple-A affiliate. He'll have a chance to get closer in the near future, as manager Terry Collins said after the game that Isringhausen will be his pitcher in the ninth inning going forward, with Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato also in the mix.
"I'm thrilled to death," Collins said. "He starts out the year in extended spring -- we weren't sure he was going to be healthy enough to make the club -- and here he is, closing for us now during some big times. I was very happy for him. I think he brings some credibility to the bullpen when he comes in."
Aaron Taube is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.