at Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Thursday, March 4
Cardinals at the plate: Starting right fielder Ryan Ludwick paced the Cardinals' offense, going 2-for-3 with a homer, two runs scored and a team-high three RBIs. Joe Mather, competing for a spot on the roster, also impressed, going 2-for-3 with an RBI. Meanwhile, St. Louis' projected starter at third base, David Freese, finished 0-for-3 with a punchout.
Mets at the plate: The top of the order was in full gear. Gary Matthews Jr. and Luis Castillo combined to go 4-for-4 with five runs scored and two RBIs. David Wright hit a two-run homer on a line drive to right field in the first inning, and Matthews added a solo shot in the fifth. Jason Bay, making his Mets debut, went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout. Ike Davis pounded a ninth-inning grand slam well past the picnic tables in right field.
Cardinals on the mound: Evan MacLane, who put up a 4.02 ERA in Triple-A last year, yielded three runs on three hits in his two-inning start. Adam Ottavino followed up and had a hard time finding the strike zone, as he walked three batters and gave up an unearned run in two frames. The game then blew open when knuckleballer Charlie Zink checked in to start the fifth and gave up seven runs (five earned) in 1 2/3 innings.
Mets on the mound: R.A. Dickey had his knuckleball working early, then it went downhill. He was unable to finish the third inning, and his outing ended with five earned runs allowed on seven hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings. Tobi Stoner followed up and gave up a run in 2 1/3 frames. Jack Egbert hurled two shutout innings, striking out three and walking two. Sean Green checked in for the eighth, but he was able to get just two outs and exited early. He was charged with two runs.
Worth noting: The wind was estimated to be blowing at about 18 mph at Tradition Field, which made for an interesting sight considering two knuckleballers -- Dickey and Zink -- saw action. But the wind factor was never more evident than in the top of the third, when Ludwick's liner to straightaway center field hooked towards right field and spun Matthews completely around, resulting in a two-run double.
Grapefruit League records: Mets 2-1; Cardinals 0-1
Up next: The Mets play split-squad games on Friday, and Jose Reyes -- for now, at least -- will play in one of them. The shortstop, who was scratched from Thursday's lineup because of a follow-up visit with a doctor after his team physical, is expected to bat third and play shortstop for the Mets team that will stay back and host the Marlins at 1:10 p.m. ET on MLB.TV.
Starting at Tradition Field will be Jonathon Niese, who hasn't pitched since Aug. 5, when he suffered a torn right hamstring. This is a big spring for Niese, considering he's been tabbed as a front-runner to land the fifth spot in the Mets' rotation. Following him will be young sensation Jenrry Mejia, Pedro Feliciano, Bobby Parnell, Ryota Igarashi and Eric Niesen. Castillo, Wright and Bay will be in that lineup.
For the squad that will be in Jupiter, Fla., Fernando Nieve will get the start against the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET. Nieve is also competing for the fifth spot, and could be an option out of the bullpen if he doesn't land the job. Following him will be Bobby Livingston, Nelson Figueroa, Eddie Kunz and Brad Holt. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur is the only projected starter in that lineup.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.