Cards Down Mets; Will Meet Tigers in World Series

Though the New York Mets lost Game 7 of the NL championship series, they might have found a pitcher for the future.

Oliver Perez, 3-13 with a 6.55 ERA this season for the Mets and Pirates, was a fallback starter after injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez. He held the Cardinals to four hits in six innings and left with the score tied 1-1.

``I'm real proud of Oliver,'' manager Willie Randolph said. ``He did a tremendous job for us.''

Perez, 25, appeared to be a rising star a few years ago. He was 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA in 2004 for Pittsburgh before running into problems.

Perez allowed five runs in 5 2-3 innings to get the victory in the Mets' 12-5 victory in Game 4, but pitched well before allowing two home runs in his last inning after New York had built an 11-3 cushion.

``He grew up a lot in the time he was here with us and hopefully he'll be back,'' Randolph said. ``I'm just real proud of the way he stepped up for us.''

ROLEN PLAYS: St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa saw enough positive signs from Scott Rolen's swings that he gave no thought to benching the All-Star third baseman for Game 7 of the NL championship series.

La Russa looked pretty smart after Rolen hit a ball that cleared the left-field wall but was snared by Endy Chavez with a spectacular leaping catch to rob what would've been a two-run home run. Rolen also singled ahead of Yadier Molina's two-run homer in the ninth in a 3-1 clinching victory Wednesday night.

Rolen is 6-for-32 with no RBIs in the postseason after driving in 95 runs in the regular season.

La Russa has sat Rolen twice in the postseason after he revealed he'd been bothered by fatigue and soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder. La Russa said Rolen's ninth-inning double off Billy Wagner in Game 6 was evidence the problem is not physical.

``I'm convinced that his struggles are more needing to make an adjustment in his approach than they are his shoulder,'' La Russa said before the game. ``That's a good-looking swing that he can repeat productively.''

CLOSE SHAVE: Cardinals rookie closer Adam Wainwright, filling in for injured Jason Isringhausen, survived his first rough outing of the postseason in Game 7 before nailing down his third save.

Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez singled to start the ninth inning before Wainwright, 25, recovered. He froze pinch hitter Cliff Floyd on a third-strike curveball, retired Jose Reyes on a liner to center, gave up a walk to Paul LoDuca to load the bases, and then froze Carlos Beltran on another third-strike curve to end it.

Entering the game, he had allowed only three hits in 5 2-3 innings with eight strikeouts and no walks.

``I can't let my team down there,'' Wainwright said. ``It made it interesting, more than I wanted to.''

WE'LL CALL YOU: A seven-game NLCS compressed at the end by a rainout left the Cardinals with the possibility of starting rookie Anthony Reyes or restoring Jason Marquis from non-roster status for the opener of the World Series on Saturday.

The alternative would be Jeff Weaver on three days' rest. The Cardinals were ready to do just that before Game 5 was postponed by rain earlier this week.

After winning Game 7, manager Tony La Russa said he'd announce a starter for the World Series opener on Friday.

Marquis, who won 14 games but with a 6.02 ERA, wasn't used in the division round and the 24-year-old Reyes took his roster spot for the NLCS. Marquis hadn't heard a word.

``I haven't thought about it,'' Marquis said. ``I've got to do my work, and if they call on me they call on me.

``I'm not spending any time trying to figure it out.''

WARMING UP IN THE 'PEN: Orlando Hernandez, recovered from a torn right calf muscle that kept him off the playoff roster, threw about 25 pitches in a light bullpen session before Game 7.

Not that it matters now, but El Duque may have been the Mets' starter for Game 1 in the World Series.

Randolph said that if his team had won the pennant, his starter in the World Series opener could've been a pitcher who wasn't on the current active roster.

``There's always that possibility,'' he said before the Cardinals clinched the NL pennant. ``Who knows? Could be El Duque, the way he's working, coming around, bouncing around pretty good. So it could be him.''

Hernandez threw 72 pitches in a bullpen session last Sunday. Now he'll have all winter to get healthy.

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