And, most importantly, would the National League Central-leading Cardinals expose the Mets' weaknesses?
The answers: Yes, yes and hardly.
Carlos Beltran hit a two-run walk-off home run in the ninth inning as the Mets rebounded from a six-run deficit and rallied to beat the Cardinals, 8-7, on Tuesday in front of 49,661 at Shea Stadium. Beltran's blast off Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen was his 36th homer of the year and his second walk-off shot of the season.
The homer by Beltran capped a night highlighted by Carlos Delgado, who hit two home runs, including a grand slam for the 400th of his career. The Carlos duo trumped the performance by Albert Pujols, who hit a three-run homer and a grand slam.
"It's a good day to be a Met," said Delgado, who became the 42nd player to reach 400 career home runs. "Considering how bad this day could have been, everything turned out great."
The Mets began the day by announcing that Glavine would simply have to take some baby aspirin to control the issue with the blood clots in his shoulder. Glavine himself said that he could be pitching as early as the beginning of next week.
After that, though, the Cardinals seemed to put a dent in the Mets' armor behind Pujols' power.
Delgado first gave the Mets a 1-0 lead with his solo homer in the second inning.
But Mets starter John Maine, after cruising through the first three innings perfectly, gave up a single to Cardinals shortstop Aaron Miles to start the fourth, followed by a double to left fielder Chris Duncan before facing Pujols for the second time on the night.
Maine had struck out the reigning MVP in the first inning on a chest-high fastball, but when the rookie pitcher threw a similar pitch in the fourth inning, Pujols belted the 0-1 fastball 430 feet to the base of the scoreboard in right-center field.
"It wasn't that I beat him with the pitch in the first inning, more so that he just missed it," said Maine, who had won three games in a row coming into the game. "He's a great player, and he definitely learned from that first at-bat. I just made some mistakes, and I paid for them."
Pujols hurt Maine again in the very next inning after Maine put himself into trouble. Ronnie Belliard started the inning with a single, followed by a double by Yadier Molina on which Belliard was thrown out at home on a perfectly executed relay from left fielder Michael Tucker to Jose Reyes to Paul Lo Duca.
After Maine struck out Weaver, he walked Miles and Duncan to load the bases. Pujols smacked the third pitch he saw from Maine into the left-field bleachers to give the Cardinals a convincing 7-1 lead. Maine struck out Scott Rolen to end the inning, but his night was finished.
The seven RBIs by Pujols are the most by an opposing player against the Mets since Bobby Higginson had seven with three homers on June 30, 1997.
"I did a terrible job," said Maine, who gave up six hits and two walks while striking out five in his five innings. "I was trying to nibble, and I just wasn't aggressive enough. My execution was terrible, and I got a lot of things to work on. I don't know who to thank more, though, the bullpen or the offense. They both bailed me out big-time."
And then some.
First, the Mets offense got cranking with a little help from the Cardinals.
Ricky Ledee, pinch-hitting for Maine, started the Mets' fifth with a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball. Reyes then hit a blooper to left, which Duncan dropped after almost running into Miles. Lo Duca singled to right to load the bases.
Beltran hit a comebacker to Weaver, who threw underhand to home to record the first out. Delgado, though, put the Mets back in the ballgame, connecting on a 3-1 cutter for a towering grand slam to right field. Weaver retired the next two batters on strikeouts, but the damage was done and the Mets, who have now hit a franchise-record nine grand slams, knew it.
"That's how we are," said Delgado, who moved into sole possession of 42nd place on the all-time home run list. "We've been like that all year. Keep fighting and fighting. It's an honor. It's pretty special to hit that homer on a night like this, though."
The bullpen kept the Cardinals off the board the rest of the game, led by Guillermo Mota's debut with the Mets, a scoreless sixth in which he had two strikeouts, and Aaron Heilman, who pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. Heilman, who picked up his third win of the season, hasn't allowed a run in his last 9 2/3 innings and has 12 strikeouts during that span.
Isringhausen forced Reyes into a groundout to start the ninth. Some fans began to exit, even though the Mets lead the Majors with 26 one-run victories and are second in walk-off wins. Lo Duca dropped in a single to center and the fans remaining in Shea Stadium began to chant, "Let's go Mets!"
They had little time to deliver a second chant. Beltran wasted no time in making the day a joyous one, turning on the first pitch he saw from Isringhausen, a cutter not far enough inside. The 410-foot drive landed in the Mets' bullpen in right field just as fast as the Mets exited the dugout.
The homer was further verification that Beltran is having just as much of an MVP season as Pujols, who acknowledged as much after the Mets' win.
"He's having a great season. He's a great player," said Pujols, whose seven RBIs were a career high. "I'm really happy for him. I'm really excited because last year he struggled a little bit and the city was treating the superstar not the right way. So I'm really excited with the season he's having. I've known the guy for seven years now, and I know what kind of numbers he can put up."