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10/13/06 12:18 AM ET

Maine ready to face Cards in Game 2

Less pressure on rookie with Mets leading Cards in NLCS

NEW YORK -- Mets right-hander John Maine had made only 24 starts in the Major Leagues before Orlando Hernandez tore a calf muscle in his right leg and had to be scratched from a Game 1 start in the National League Division Series against the Dodgers.

Suddenly, Mets manager Willie Randolph turned to the relatively inexperienced Maine and handed him the ball for the opener, just as he's doing for Game 2 of the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals on Friday night at Shea Stadium.

Maine, who professed to have a bit of jangled nerves heading into that initial playoff outing, will have a chance to pitch under less pressure by virtue of Tom Glavine's masterpiece in a 2-0 victory in Game 1 on Thursday night. The Mets lead the best-of-seven series, 1-0.

"John is going to be nervous. I've been doing this for a long time and I still get nervous, and he has every right to get nervous," said Glavine, the 40-year-old left-hander who notched his sixth career NLCS victory by holding the Cardinals to four hits in his seven innings. "But certainly, we feel he's going to go out there and do what he's done all year long, which is channel that nervousness and give us a chance to win.

"I know for me, personally, that whenever I'm pitching, I always want to take the mound with my team ahead in the series. So there's always a relaxing factor [when] you know that your team has a little bit of a cushion."

Maine didn't get the decision against the Dodgers that night at Shea Stadium. He was yanked with one out in fifth inning and the Mets leading, 4-1, so left-hander Pedro Feliciano could face Kenny Lofton, who struck out. Maine allowed one run and six hits, while walking two and striking out five in a game the Mets eventually won, 6-5, on their way to a sweep in the best-of-five series.

But the experience is something he'll rely heavily upon when he faces veteran St. Louis right-hander Chris Carpenter on Friday.

"I was nervous, and you still get some butterflies now," Maine said. "But I saw what the playoff atmosphere was like, and I know what to expect now. It gets crazier and crazier the farther you go, I'm sure, but I kind of know what to expect."

Maine was acquired from the Orioles in the Kris Benson trade last winter and was part of the Major League tryout camp the Mets conducted this past season as injuries beset the starting staff.

Maine was 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 16 appearances, 15 of the them starts. It was enough for Randolph to put his faith in Maine as the postseason began.

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"Every time he has taken the ball since he's been here, he's proven a lot to me, really," Randolph said. "He's getting better and better at harnessing a lot of his energy. I think that's a big part of it, not just physically, but mentally being able to get through tough spots and trusting himself and just being tough.

"He's challenged himself, and I've challenged him personally and he's been there for me. So he's got to the point now where I feel very confident in giving him the ball."

With Hernandez still on the shelf and not on the postseason roster at least until the World Series, Maine will get the ball again on Friday.

It'll be his second start this year against the Cardinals, who Maine-handled him on Aug. 22 at Shea in a game the Mets won, 8-7. Maine was gone after five innings, having allowed five hits and seven runs -- all of them on two Albert Pujols home runs.

Asked if he had any plan this time around for going after the NL Central champions, Maine said: "I don't think my game plan changes that much from team to team. I think maybe patterns of what I throw and what situation I throw pitches in might change a little bit. I still have to be aggressive, and I've still got to go out there and throw strikes. There are certain places in the lineup where you have to realize the score of the inning. Things like that might change your approach a little bit.

"Pujols, of course, is one of them, and you've just got to make quality pitches on him. Everyone knows he's a great hitter. You've just got to be careful."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.