ST. LOUIS -- The people Tom Glavine least wanted to see approach him in the bottom of the fourth inning had to include a Queens cab driver and a beekeeper.

But Albert Pujols had to rank somewhere in the top three.

At that point, Glavine's Mets led Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, 2-0, and Pujols was still empty.

Including the last two Division Series games against San Diego, Pujols had gone six straight games without driving in a run. He hadn't had an RBI since Oct. 5. For a run-producing robot like him, this was like Jared going 12 days without a Subway sandwich.

And on the seventh day, Albert wasn't going to rest. You didn't need to be the winner of 304 games, including those in the postseason, to dislike those odds.

Also, odds were Glavine disliked the idea of being the one who brings Pujols to life, but such are the vagaries of taking your turn on the mound.

"When you have a guy struggling in a series, you go after him," said Glavine, clearly not a law-of-averages fan. "He's putting as much pressure on himself to make something happen as there is on us to try to keep him struggling.

"Sometimes, it's a good thing when a guy is struggling like that."

This wasn't one of those times.

Phat Albert pulled a fat 2-and-2 changeup over the left-field fence, pulling the Cardinals back into the game. Nine batters later, Glavine was out of the game.

Four innings later, the Cardinals were one step away from their second World Series appearance in three years.

"You know," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said, "we were sitting on zero, and [Pujols' homer] got us going and really perked us up. Give Albert a lot of credit."

Care to, Mr. Glavine?

Five days earlier, you might recall, Pujols had not offered the proverbial tip of the cap to the lefty for his work in setting up a 2-0 Mets win, saying Glavine "wasn't good at all. We just didn't get some opportunities, and that's it."

We could call this even had Glavine only said that Pujols "wasn't good at all. He just hit a mistake pitch my grocer could have hit."

Which, of course, isn't what Glavine said at all. Although, he did imply that Pujols batted only .500 on pitches just begging to be crushed.

"I made a couple mistakes to Albert, and he hit one of them," Glavine said. "In the first, I tried to go away with a changeup, hung it, and he popped it up [to center]. The second time, I wanted to get a change in, but it leaked back over the plate a little bit."

Glavine's performance fell a little short of the demonstration for which he had hoped. Earlier, discussing his next start as well as Pujols' review of the last one, Glavine had said, "If he truly didn't think I pitched well the other night, then I hope I do something tomorrow night to really impress him."

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In today's game, juicy feuds are very rare. Baseball is a civil war only in the sense that everyone is so civil, which isn't a bad thing, only somewhat colorless.

So, even though Pujols and Glavine have recently spoken of each other with a smile, it seemed to be a wolf's grin.

According to Pujols, Glavine wasn't different from what the Cardinals had seen in Shea Stadium. Only, this time the Cards beat him with better at-bats.

"We just made some good adjustments," Pujols said. "We had quality at-bats."

Glavine shrugged off culpability for two runs against him delivered by ground-ball singles: "Getting guys to hit the ball on the ground is what I'm trying to do. I can't control where they hit it."

However, Pujols included all of it among the ingredients of a championship.

"You need to take advantage of little breaks like that to win in the postseason," Pujols said. "When they make mistakes, you need to capitalize."


"You know, we were sitting on zero, and [Pujols' homer] got us going and really perked us up. Give Albert a lot of credit."
-- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa

Pujols' blow energized a Busch Stadium crowd of 46,496 towel-waving fans. From that point on, the Mets had to cope with a wall of noise as well as the astonishing stuff being dispensed first by Jeff Weaver, then his rag-tag team of relievers.

The electricity sizzled on high-tension wires. Regardless of outcome, there would be a tomorrow. Yet, neither team could find consolation in that. That was no buffer for letting this pivotal game get away.

The stakes felt like one of those department store blue-light specials: two-for-one, a sense influenced by Chris Carpenter being on deck for St. Louis.

To the Cardinals, thus, this one felt like the prelude to a clincher. To the Mets, it loomed as an elimination game even before they were down to their last lives.

For 10 innings of this NLCS, trying to hit Glavine's pitches, the Cardinals were like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football being held by Lucy. It was right there, but when they swung through, it wasn't.

Then Pujols, who had been a ticking time bomb since Oct. 5, went off. And now the clock is ticking for the Mets.

"I'm glad we could come back, but we need to play hard," Pujols said. "You can't take anything for granted. But we play the game hard, and now that we're in the postseason, we caught our second wind.

"That's where we are right now."

Right now, the Cardinals' second wind is blowing with gale force across Flushing. Maybe John Maine can do something to impress Albert and the rest of the Cardinals, not to mention all the Mets fans squinting to see a Game 7.