Johan Santana put the Mets in a hole early. But the Mets chipped away at the Cardinals' lead last night and took the game to extra innings.

The promising night unraveled in the top of the 13th when beleaguered reliever Pedro Feliciano (2-6) allowed the go-ahead run on Albert Pujols’ two-out RBI single that gave the Cardinals an 8-7 victory last night in front of 36,009 at Citi Field.

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Jerry Manuel chose to pitch to Pujols rather than Matt Holliday despite having an open base. “At least tonight, Holliday was swinging the bat better than Albert,” Manuel said. “It was a tough call. We were playing with fire and we got burned.”

Santana, who entered the game 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA in five July outings, allowed a career-worst 13 hits in 52/3 innings, including six runs on eight hits in the first. It was his shortest outing since May 2 when he gave up 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Phillies.