Tom Glavine pitched seven stellar innings and Carlos Beltran belted a two-run homer on Thursday to lift the New York Mets to a 2-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball's National League championship series.
Beltran's blast snapped a scoreless tie in the sixth inning and was enough offense to back up another outstanding postseason start by Glavine, who has assumed the role of postseason ace because of injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez.
"I understand the importance of when I'm pitching now," the 40-year-old lefthander said. "But at the same time ... I don't want to put any added pressure on myself. I just want to give us a chance to win. So far this post-season, I've been able to do that."
"Tommy was superb tonight," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "You always feel good handing him the ball. He's always ready. He was the key tonight."
With the victory in a game postponed from Wednesday because of rain, the Mets gained the upper hand in the best-of-seven series that will send one team to the World Series.
Two Octobers ago, Beltran was with the Houston Astros when he enjoyed one of the best postseasons in baseball history.
His spectacular efforts included batting .417 and four home runs in the NL championship series against the Cardinals, who nevertheless vanquished the Astros in seven games.
Beltran signed with the Mets that winter and again has emerged as the Cardinals' playoff nemesis, connecting Thursday off Cardinals starter Jeff Weaver.
The victory in the opening game of the series took on added importance for the Mets with the news that the Cardinals would move up star righthander Chris Carpenter to pitch game two. Glavine, who threw six scoreless innings to win his lone start in the first round, was even better in this one.
Retiring the leadoff batter in every inning, the two-time Cy Young Award winner scattered four hits, walked two, struck out two and benefited from a pair of double plays.
Glavine pitched carefully to Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols, allowing just a walk in three at-bats.
Guillermo Mota walked one in the eighth and retired Preston Wilson for the final out, leaving Pujols in the on-deck circle. Closer Billy Wagner retired Pujols on a line drive to first to open the ninth and got Juan Encarnacion on a grounder to second.
The hard-throwing lefthander issued a walk to Scott Rolen, but retired pinch hitter Scott Spiezio on a flare to second base to complete the four-hitter.
Glavine faced his first threat when Yadier Molina and Weaver singled with one out in the third, but David Eckstein lined into a double play.
A double play also ended the fourth when Pujols -- who had walked -- was caught off first when Beltran snagged a fly ball by Encarnacion in shallow center field and fired a one-hop strike to first.
The Cardinals put two runners on with two outs in the fifth before Weaver struck out against Glavine to end the frame.
Weaver allowed just a single and a walk through the first five innings before Paul Lo Duca singled with one out in the sixth. Beltran then belted a 2-2 pitch well over the right-center field fence.
"It pains me to put an `L' next to Jeff's name," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "No way was he a losing pitcher. Jeff was outstanding but so was Glavine. We couldn't break through offensively."