Looking for its first four game sweep over the New York Mets since 1982, the St. Louis Cardinals came up short Thursday afternoon, losing 5-2 in front of the fifth sellout crowd of the season at Busch Stadium.
“It’s very hard,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said of trying to sweep a four-game series. “We pulled it off in Milwaukee. Anytime you head into a big league game it is hard enough to win, but to take four in a row is extremely difficult.”
The Cardinals offense staked starting pitcher Adam Wainwright to an early 1-0 lead, but the Cardinals’ ace was unable to hold it.
“(Wainwright) wasn’t that bad today,” Matheny said. “He was fighting from the beginning and a couple of big hits stopped us for a while. We couldn’t get anything going offensively. He was pretty good, but you could see he was laboring.”
In the top of the third, Wainwright got two quick outs, but a bunt single by Jordany Valdespin and a double by Daniel Murphy tied the game. Murphy advanced to third on the throw and scored on a single by David Wright to give the Mets a 2-1 lead.
New York (15-23) added another pair of runs in the sixth. After a ground-rule double by Murphy that went through the right field wall, Wright doubled to score Murphy and advanced to third on an error by Shane Robinson.
Murphy was all over Cardinals’ pitching Thursday. The Mets’ second baseman was 4-for-4 with two doubles and a walk. He also scored once and drove in a run.
“(Murphy) is tough on me,” Wainwright said. “He has got good plate coverage on both sides with the ball in, away, up and down. So you just have to mix and match everything. … Tip your hat, he sees the ball well.”
 Following Wainwright’s eighth strikeout of the game, Lucas Duda hit a sacfly to center that scored Wright, putting the Mets up 4-1.
The Mets’ final run came in the top of the eighth off reliever Fernando Salas. After Ike Davis struck out for the fourth time, Duda doubled and scored on John Buck’s RBI single.
St. Louis (26-14) got its first run in the second inning. Yadier Molina singled and moved to second on a David Freese ground out. Pete Kozma then doubled to score Molina from second.
St. Louis didn’t score again until the eighth inning. The rally started with a one-out double by Matt Carpenter. After Robinson walked, Carlos Beltran drove in Carpenter with an RBI single. But that was all the Cardinals would get as Allen Craig hit into his second double play of the day to end the inning.
“I don’t think we have hit into as many double plays this year as we have in years past,” Craig said. “It is just the name of the game sometimes. You hit it hard and it goes right at them, I think in my situation I could have taken some better swings and stayed away from David Wright. I tested him a few times and he is pretty good over there.”
Matheny acknowledged the double play hurt his team Thursday.
“I think we have had our share of double plays this year,” Matheny said. “It is something that can kill a rally in a hurry. In the eighth we had something going really well and he hit it pretty hard, just right at somebody.”
Wainwright was pulled before the start of the seventh inning having thrown just 87 pitches, 57 of which were strikes. Wainwright allowed 6 hits and four runs, only three of which were earned. He also struck out eight while walking one.
“(Wainwright) kept it close enough for us,” Matheny said. “If we could have stacked on some offense – he had a pretty tough act to follow from last time, but he kept us in that game.”
Wainwright was surprised he was pulled so early.
“I only had 87 pitches,” Wainwright said. “I was feeling fine. … I was surprised.”
St. Louis pitching stuck out at least one batter in every inning and 11 altogether. The Mets’ Ike Davis accounting for four of the strikeouts.
“The ones they were supposed to hit they hit,” Wainwright said. “The ones that I executed, they missed. That’s how simple it is. You break that game down and if I make my pitches, most of the time they don’t get hits.”
The Cardinals managed eight hits. Beltran was the only St. Louis batter with a multi hit game, finishing the day 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI. The other five came from Kozma and Carpenter, each of whom had doubles while Molina, Wainwright and pinch hitter Matt Adams all singled.
“If you look at the offense we have,” Matheny said. “There is not anybody that is going to have that much success, in my opinion, over the long haul. I think it is all going work out. Any night any guy can shut us down and that is what they did today.”
St. Louis will now start a three-game series with Milwaukee tonight.