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STL@CIN: Pujols hammers a huge, go-ahead home run

After a little more than two weeks, the Mets will be welcoming back baseball's most exciting player of the first half to their lineup Tuesday.

Shortstop Jose Reyes, on the 15-day disabled list since July 3 with a Grade 1 strain in his left hamstring, will be activated prior to Tuesday's series opener against the Cardinals at Citi Field.

The Mets plan to be careful with Reyes, although he will probably still play almost every inning of every game. Mets manager Terry Collins said he and Reyes talked about how to handle the shortstop's return. Although Collins said Reyes told him he'd be OK, the manager said he'll probably be closely watching his shortstop this weekend when the Mets travel to Florida for a three-game series with the Marlins.

"I'm going to be very cautious with him in Florida, take a good, hard look at how he's doing, because obviously anytime you start to strain muscles, a lot of it's due to dehydration in the muscles," Collins said. "But he said he's going to be fine, he's ready, and we'll do a much better job of monitoring him here -- especially early to see if he's OK."

Reyes and his star power return at the perfect time, as St. Louis and Albert Pujols travel to New York. Pujols has been hitting his stride after a quiet April and May, and -- despite an 0-for-4 performance on Sunday against the Reds -- is 8-for-24 in his last six games with three home runs.

"It's a long season, man, a long season," Pujols said. "I've said it before: It doesn't matter how you start, whether it's good or bad. At the end of the year, hopefully, you get 600 at-bats, 700 plate appearances."

On Saturday night, his three-run shot in the fifth proved to be the game-winner. On Friday, he hit a two-run homer that put the Cardinals ahead, although they ultimately lost the game.

Pujols entered Sunday with a .412 on-base percentage and a .795 slugging percentage since June 3.

"He's himself," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "That's all you need to say."

Cardinals: Lohse takes the hill
• Kyle Lohse gets the start for the Cardinals on Tuesday, after going 8-6 with a 3.32 ERA in the first half of the season. In eight career starts against the Mets, he is 2-3 with a 5.85 ERA but winless (0-3) in New York.

• After going 1-for-4 with a solo home run on Sunday, outfielder Lance Berkman has recorded a hit or a run in each of his last three games.

Mets: Gee meets Cards for first time
• Dillon Gee, who has never faced the Cardinals, takes the hill on Tuesday in the series opener. He was hit hard by the Dodgers in his final start of the first half, surrendering six runs (five earned) on five hits and a walk in 5 2/3 frames. He struck out just two. Gee has not won since June 26.

• Carlos Beltran has missed three straight games because of a stomach virus, but Collins said he expects the outfielder to return Tuesday.

Worth noting
• New York's Daniel Murphy has recorded at least one hit in 19 of his last 22 games.

• Tuesday will be the first of six meetings between the two teams this season.

• The Mets have hit a home run in three of their last five games, and a total of nine in their last 10 contests.

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