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All those wins during that memorable cruise-control summer mean nothing now. The Mets can become the latest regular-season juggernaut to fall in the postseason with only one more defeat. After a disheartening 4-2 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday in which they couldn't solve Jeff Weaver or the Cardinals bullpen, the Mets head home needing both games to win the series. To make matters worse, their Game 6 starter is the sometimes-shaky John Maine, and their Game 7 pitcher is To Be Determined.

First, the bad news: St. Louis' raggedy pitching staff has managed to check the Mets. Give some credit to Weaver and Jeff Suppan, but don't let the Mets off the hook. Their bats haven't devoured their opponents' arms like they did in the regular season. To make matters worse, the Cardinals throw their ace, Chris Carpenter, in Game 6. On the mound, New York's patchwork staff has had its seams worn, and the bullpen has been taxed enough to make it ineffective. Mets relievers will not be fresh entering the final two games.

On the other hand, Carpenter hasn't been his dominant self of late, and the Mets had no problems with him in Game 2. Behind Carpenter is a bullpen that is not as deep as the Mets'. New York would be happy to get more cracks at it. If and when they do, they'll have to take advantage, or they'll face a long winter. Lashes hits a bloop to left and Edmonds advances to 3rd. Now Ronnie "I have bad hair" Belliard is up. Anyone thinking 6-4-3?

Photograph of players surrounding pitcher Tom Glavine as he gives the ball to manager Willie Randolph by Charles Krupa/AP