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Mets' 9-hit attack beats Cards, backs rookie Niese

New York Mets' Jeff Francoeur (12) is congratulated

New York Mets' Jeff Francoeur (12) is congratulated by Carlos Beltran after hitting a three run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals. (July 27, 2010) Credit: John Dunn

Adam Wainwright hadn't allowed a run in 25 innings and the Mets hadn't scored one in 16 going into last night's game at Citi Field.

The odds were against the Mets; if not the odds, then at least the probabilities.

But something funny happened on the way to a frustrating night for the Mets: They played one of their best games of the season.

Sparked by a three-run home run by fill-in Jeff Francoeur, the Mets took apart Wainwright and beat the Cardinals, 8-2, in their first game since returning from a 2-9 road trip that almost got hitting coach Howard Johnson fired.

Could it be a turning point?

"It's got to be," Francoeur said.

Johnson could beam with pride after the Mets put together nine hits and five walks. Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo, who manager Jerry Manuel said are still "transitioning" back into the lineup, had two hits apiece, and Jose Reyes had a two-run home run.

Francoeur isn't transitioning. He was only playing because Jason Bay was revealed to be suffering from a mild concussion after he slammed face-first into the leftfield fence at Dodger Stadium on Friday. Bay didn't show any symptoms until the Mets flew home from Los Angeles after Sunday's game.

The Mets were also without Manuel, who was suspended for one game for his actions while getting ejected Friday. Bench coach Dave Jauss ran the team.

"We needed that very badly," Manuel said. "This brings back the confidence that was probably shaken a little on this road trip."

The Mets had been shut out four times on their 11-game trip. Wainwright, who will forever be remembered as the pitcher who struck out Beltran looking to end Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series, did not appear to be the best choice for a slumping team to get well against.

"Tonight was fun to have something like that - against a guy like Wainwright," Francoeur said.

After falling behind 1-0 in the first, the Mets scored in the second. David Wright walked and moved to third when Beltran - in his first home game of the season and first at-bat against Wainwright since the fateful Game 7 - doubled down the leftfield line. Ike Davis followed with an RBI groundout.

Francoeur, who lost his job when Beltran came back and has been the subject of trade talks, should be staying put now that the Mets don't know how long Bay will be out. "I want to be here," Francoeur said. "I like it here. It's a fun place to play. It's a crazy place to play, but it's a fun place to play."

Especially when you actually play. Francoeur hit his ninth home run, a three-run shot to left-center, to give the Mets a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning.

Wainwright (14-6, 2.23 ERA) crouched on the mound as soon as Francoeur connected, knowing he had made a mistake with a breaking ball. Wainwright later said he was trying to pitch around Francoeur with first base open. "If anybody knows me, it's pretty hard to walk me," Francoeur said.

While Wainwright struggled, Jonathon Niese (7-4, 3.43) sparkled. The rookie pitched into the seventh inning, allowing one run, seven hits and two walks, with one strikeout.

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