ST. LOUIS (AP) — A slumping Jay Bruce took extra batting practice before Tuesday night’s game. The extra swings paid off handsomely.
Bruce hit a tiebreaking homer in the 10th inning, Yoenis Cespedes launched a majestic, three-run shot and the New York Mets rallied for a 6-5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Bruce began the game batting .194 but broke out with three hits, including an RBI triple.
“You never feel perfect, but I think overall the timing’s been a little off,” he said. “I haven’t been in sync for an extended period of time yet, but I’m working at it every day.”
Mets manager Mickey Callaway said Bruce looked different at the plate.
“He was on time,” Callaway said. “He wasn’t feeling for it. He was letting it go. It looked like he had a little bit of that conviction in his swing back. He went and attacked the ball and lived with the results and the results were good.”
After Bruce’s decisive drive to center field off former Mets farmhand Matt Bowman (0-1) with two outs, the Cardinals claimed he missed first base and challenged. A 56-second replay review confirmed Bruce touched the bag, and the NL East-leading Mets (15-6) closed it out for their 10th comeback victory of the season.
“We were all like, what’s going on? And Jay was like, why are they challenging that? I stepped right on the middle of the bag,” Callaway said. “So that was interesting.”
There was no doubt in Bruce’s mind that he touched them all.
“I’ve hit a few home runs in my career and I’ve never even gotten close to missing that base,” Bruce said. “That would be a new low for me.”
Cespedes also has been slumping — he started the night hitting .195. But his homer off starter Luke Weaver tied it 4-all in the fifth. The drive traveled an estimated 463 feet to left field, the third-longest by an opposing player in the history of Busch Stadium III.
“He was losing the strike zone with the fastball so I was focusing on catching the changeup,” Cespedes said through a translator. “I caught it and I hit it.”
Bruce’s eighth-inning single sent Todd Frazier from first to third before Adrian Gonzalez tied it at 5 with a sacrifice fly.
Mets starter Zack Wheeler lasted a season-low four innings and gave up four runs. Former ace Matt Harvey allowed a run over two innings in his first relief appearance since being demoted to the bullpen.
Back-to-back doubles by Dexter Fowler and Paul DeJong off Harvey with two outs in the fifth gave St. Louis a 5-4 lead.
Harvey declined to speak with reporters after the game.
“There’s no doubt that tonight he went out there and attacked and tried to help the team,” Callaway said of Harvey. “He’s manned up and he’s going to do the job.”
Robert Gsellman (3-0) pitched a scoreless ninth for the win, and Jeurys Familia earned his ninth save.
Bruce’s sinking line drive got by left fielder Marcell Ozuna in the second for an RBI triple. It was Bruce’s first triple in 174 games with the Mets.
Weaver lasted 4 2/3 innings. He gave up four runs and walked a career-high six as St. Louis had its three-game winning streak snapped.
Tommy Pham drove Wheeler’s 95 mph fastball 420 feet to center for a home run that gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Kolten Wong doubled in a run and scored on Weaver’s single in the fourth to make it 4-1. Weaver’s single was the first time the Mets allowed an opposing pitcher to reach safely in 42 plate appearances this season.
“Anytime you have a three-run lead and you can’t hold onto it, that’s always going to hurt,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “The guys fight back into it and then give it up again, those are tough ones to recover from. You’ve just got to move on.”
Wong made a diving play at second on Gonzalez’s grounder and threw him out from his knees for the first out in the second. Wong was playing in with Bruce at third. The play saved a run and Weaver was able to strand Bruce at third.
Mets: LHP Jason Vargas (broken right hand) started Monday for Triple-A Las Vegas and allowed three runs over four innings. He is scheduled to make his season debut Saturday in San Diego.
Cardinals: RHP Sam Tuivailala and LHP Ryan Sherriff have reported to Triple-A Memphis for rehab assignments. Tuivailala is scheduled to throw Wednesday and Sherriff will throw later this week.
Mets LHP Steven Matz (1-1, 4.42 ERA) seeks his first win against St. Louis in the middle game of the series Wednesday night. Matz is 0-2 with an 8.64 ERA in two career starts against the Cardinals. They counter with RHP Michael Wacha (3-1, 4.22), who has won his last three starts.
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